Friday, October 12, 2007

Night with the Cats

Photo Credit: Ross White

The 2007-2008 Davidson basketball season kicked off last night with the third annual Night with the Cats event. This year ESPNU traveled to Davidson to record the event for a four-hour special that will air tonight at 7 on ESPN. Here are some of my thoughts on the event.

---Even though the bleachers were not filled at all, the red seats were packed with energetic, die-hard fans. The 3,000ish fans that attended were very loud when the lights when out to start the event. Student turnout/energy was excellent and both coaches did not forget to court the student body in their respective speeches.

---The minor renovations to Belk Arena included new scoreboards with stat boards, a new three-sided shot clock and a red buzzer light in the frame of the backboard. Everything looked pretty high-class.

---Although I was not looking forward to another version of Dancing through the Decades, the marketing department put together a great script that tied each grouping to Davidson basketball history. With 2007-2008 marking the 100th anniversary of Davidson basketball, that little history lesson was well taken. Despite being biased towards the seniors, I was most impressed with the sophomore dancing group. Curry embraced the spotlight and the "Beckham camera" that was always on him. His roommate Bryant Barr also stepped up big with great energy in the dancing.

---Freshman Ashley Lax was very impressive for the women's team. She caught fire in the three-point contest and hit several big shots during the scrimmage. The women's team was a bit underwhelming with fifth-year senior Katie Hamilton and freshman phenom Chloe Woodington sitting on the bench with injuries. Players like Julia Paquette and Mercedes Robinson will have to really step up and play strong if Davidson is going to compete with the size of its BCS competition this season.

Although the atmosphere was not on par with several of the big schools that Davidson will play this year, there were several great made-for-TV moments:
------During the All State 10,000 shootout, senior student Matt Lewis hit the layup, free throw and three-pointer with plenty of time to spare. His half-court was just barely off the mark and Hubert Davis had a great time talking him up and using that event to get the students involved.
------During the men's three-point contest, Stephen Curry went off in the final round, tallying 23 of a possible thirty points. He finished the last two racks on a tear and there were several great shots of NBA three-point greats Dell Curry and Hubert Davis looking on in awe.
-----Coach McKillop was classy and energetic as always. He used some of the lingo from my recent Davidsonian article in asking the crowd to write their own story as a part of this larger story of Davidson basketball. His best line of the night could have been taken from the movie 300 when he was asked whether Belk Arena was McKillopville. "No," he said. ""

---While the men's scrimmage certainly showed signs of limited practice and jittery nerves, there were a few bright spots.

---Curry seemed to take over in the second part after being shut down in the first ten minutes. He went after every loose ball and scored his only basket after a second-chance offensive rebound.

---The scrimmage was a perfect example of why Jason Richards is a finalist for the Bob Cousy award. He led a team of Sander, Rossiter, Barr and Archambault up against Meno, Lovedale, Curry, Paulhus-Gosselin and McKillop and was absolutely dominant. He made Rossiter look like one of the best big men in the conference (which is no slight to Rossiter who has gotten much better on his own terms).

---Everyone seemed a little bigger and a little quicker, but Meno and Lovedale still had a tendency to mishandle the ball in the paint. Their ball-handling will have to improve dramatically over the course of the next month.

Overall, I thought that the event was better than I had anticipated but not as great as it could have been. The timing was a little off and many people had grown tired and left before the men's portion really got going. I was impressed with the intensity and the habits of all the was as if we all knew when to stand, what to cheer and how to do it all as a collective. That was very encouraging. Finally, I was not too concerned with the relatively mediocre level of play on the court. I doubt that our mistakes were any different than the mistakes that our BCS opponents are making at this point. All that's left is to get this ship where it needs to be by November.

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