“A new era is here,” scrolled across the videoboard at Alico Arena on Friday.
That it is.
A new coach, and several new faces on both sides meant Dunk City After Dark, the annual preseason party for the FGCU men’s and women’s basketball teams was a needed introduction of both teams to the fans.
“I think you are going to love them,” women’s coach Karl Smesko said about the new faces on his roster. You’ll be excited once you see them play.”
Despite adding a pair of team scrimmages, something absent from the event the last two years, once the showcase officially started it ended around the same time as past years – even with a later start time of 8 p.m. Whether it was the later start, or the excitement that comes from a newer, more fan-friendly and visually pleasing style under new men’s coach Michael Fly, Alico Arena saw perhaps its largest crowd for the event since Dunk City become, well, Dunk City.
There’s not many places in the country that can claim a crowd like this for a Midnight Madness,” Fly said. “The reason this place is special is because of the fans.”
From the time Fly took over, he has talked endlessly about recapturing the feeling of the Dunk City run of 2013.
Well, they dunked Friday. In an eight minute scrimmage, there were 11 of them. And UNLV transfer Troy Baxter and Brady Ernst turned the opening minutes into a dunk off.
Malik Hardy lobbed an alley-oop to Baxter for White, which Ernst followed for Blue, along with a putback jam. To which Baxter responded with a right-hand jam in transition. Ernst threw down two more jams later, including a pretty feed off the backboard from Haanif Cheatham.
But a Baxter between the legs alley-oop slam might have been the prettiest of the night, again fed by Hardy.
Cheatham had the last laugh for Blue, though, hitting a three at the buzzer to win it for Blue over White, 27-26.
Christian Carlyle, Decardo Day, Caleb Catto, Zach Scott, and Dinero Mercurius also threw down a slam each. Raysean Scott Jr., Ricky Doyle, and Brian Thomas did not play.
The women’s scrimmage saw Smesko hold out several key players, including Nasrin Ulel, Tytionia Adderly, Lisa Zderadicka and newly eligible transfer Keri Jewett-Giles.
Chandler Ryan hit a crossover three from the top of the key with six seconds left for Blue, leading to a 13-13 tie in the eight-minute scrimmage.
Alyssa Blair had five points for Green, a three and a layup on a long outlet pass along with a block, while transfer Anja Marinjkovic, sitting out this season, also had five points. Davion Wingate scored on back to back buckets for Blue.
It was no shock after the scrimmage that Baxter was the overwhelming favorite to win the slam dunk contest. It was how he did it.
In the first round using the emcee to feed him a lab off the side of the backboard into a jam, then following it up for his second with an off the glass windmill slam.
The marketing materials around the women’s program is all about the three, but the best sharpshooter in the building Friday was on the men’s team.
Dinero Mercurius won the three-point shooting contest, defeating Chandler Ryan from the women’s team.
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