October 12, 2006

Midnight Madness preview

Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:

At Arizona's version of Midnight Madness last year, the player introductions turned out to be more popular than the dunk contests or the scrimmage.

With former NBA player John Salley as the emcee, small forward Fendi Onobun ripped off his jersey at midcourt, revealing a bulletproof vest underneath.

Junior power forward Kirk Walters did the worm to a rendition of "Pretty Fly for a White Guy."

Don't expect anything quite as creative from Walters during Friday night's festivities. The big man hasn't even picked out a song yet.

Walters knows the spotlight will be on the three members of the Wildcats' 2006 recruiting class.

"This is a big deal for the freshmen," Walters told Rivals.com. "They are going to get a little taste of what (the) McKale (Center) is like. It won't be as intense as a real game, but it will be a little taste."

Much of the crowd - more than 10,000 fans showed up last year - will be focused on prize recruit Chase Budinger. The 6-foot-7 wing from San Diego is known for his tremendous leaping ability and NBA-quality dunks. He's expected to be one of the top freshmen in the nation.

"I think Chase has a pretty good chance to win (the dunk contest)," Walters said. "He's really athletic, has a smooth shooting stroke and is exciting to watch."

Budinger and his new classmates, point guard Nic Wise and power forward Jordan Hill, will also get a chance to showcase their skills in a 20-minute scrimmage.

That will be the case for freshmen and veterans all over the country on Friday night, when teams are allowed to begin practice. Many schools are hosting their versions of Midnight Madness - complete with dunk contests, 3-point contests and scrimmages. The practices used to begin at midnight, but the NCAA recently allowed them to begin earlier in the evening.

Here's a breakdown of some of the largest Midnight Madness events across the country.

Rivals.com Midnight Madness Preview
Team: Arizona
Doors Open: 6 p.m. (Pacific) at McKale Center
Giveaways: T-shirts, posters, player autographs and one fan will get the chance to win $10,000 with a half-court shot.
Agenda: The men's and women's teams will compete in a shooting contest, followed by a dunk contest and then a 20-minute scrimmage by the men's team.
What to Watch: Keep your eyes Budinger. An explosive leaper, he's capable of defying gravity for a couple seconds and throwing down amazing dunks. A more important point of interest will be the play of point guards Mustafa Shakur, J.P. Prince and Wise. The position has been a weakness in recent years, and these three players should provide some heated battles in the preseason.
Recruits Attending: Arizona's five-star commit Jerryd Bayless will be making his official visit.
Team: Florida
Doors Open: 7 p.m. (Eastern) at O'Connell Center
Giveaways: The first 1,000 fans receive T-shirts.
Agenda: The defending national champs have a long night planned. A volleyball match starts at 8 p.m., followed by the introduction of the men's and women's basketball teams. The men's team will hold a dunk contest and a scrimmage. The event will be televised by Sun Sports.
What to Watch: There won't be too many surprises - the starting five and top two reserves from last season return. The Gators received their national championship rings at halftime of a football game earlier this year. It will be interesting to watch the four freshmen, particularly forwards Marreese Speights and Dan Werner, to see if any look ready to give the veteran-heavy Gators a little more depth.
Recruits Attending: Senior small forwards Adam Allen and James Anderson. Allen has committed to the Gators.
Team: Georgetown
Doors Open: 9:45 p.m. (Eastern) at McDonough Arena
Giveaways: The first 1,000 fans receive T-shirts.
Agenda: This will be a very fan-friendly event. Festivities begin in the parking lot around 8 p.m. with free food, music, rock climbing and video games. The introduction of the men's and women's teams won't begin until midnight sharp.
What to Watch: Freshman forwards DaJuan Summers and Vernon Macklin (a McDonald's All-American) received the most hype. However, with the backcourt being so thin, freshman guard Jeremiah Rivers may be more important for the short term. Rivers, the son of former NBA player and current Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, must show he can contribute. The younger Rivers will need to play significant minutes for the Hoyas to reach their full potential.
Recruits Attending: Senior commits Austin Freeman and Chris Wright and junior power forward Chris Braswell.
Team: Kansas
Doors Open: 6 p.m. (Central) at Allen Fieldhouse.
Giveaways: One student will receive an all-expenses paid trip to watch the Jayhawks play Ball State and defending national champion Florida in Las Vegas on Nov. 23 and Nov. 26.
Agenda: The men's and women's teams will both scrimmage.
What to Watch: There is a lot of anticipation surrounding five-star freshmen Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins, but this could be sophomore Julian Wright's night to shine. After averaging eight points a game in his first year, many are expecting a breakthrough season from the athletic forward. He was selected Preseason Co-Big 12 Player of the Year along with sophomore small forward Brandon Rush.
Recruits Attending:The Jayhawks are hosting ten recruits, none bigger than Rivals.com's top-ranked small forward from the class of 2007, Kyle Singler, who is making an official visit to Lawrence this weekend. Five-star center Cole Aldrich, a Jayhawks commit, is making his official visit at the same time. Four big-name prospects from the class of 2008 will also be there, Travis Releford, Anthony Crater, Jeff Withey and Malcom Lee. A pair of Arthur's former high school teammates from South Oak Cliff High in Dallas, four-star junior center J'Mison Morgan and senior point guard Fred Gipson, will be in attendence as well. 2009 prospect Tyler Griffey and Jordan Dumars (son of former NBA star Joe Dumars) round out the visitors.
Team: Kentucky
Doors Open: 9 p.m. (Eastern) at Rupp Arena.
Giveaways: None.
Agenda: The men's team will be introduced at 10 p.m. and will hold a dunk contest and a scrimmage in what could be a full house. More than 21,000 tickets were given away in 30 minutes for the event last week.
What to Watch: It starts with new point guard Ramel Bradley. With the departure of Rajon Rondo, Bradley is being moved to the point. The junior has mainly played on the wing, so it could be a difficult transition. Freshman guards Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks are expected to contribute immediately. This will be their first chance to impress in a game-like environment.
Recruits Attending: Three of the top seniors left on the board - power forward Patrick Patterson, small forward A.J. Stewart and point guard Jai Lucas - have all made plans to be in Lexington. There is also talk that three Philadelphia power forwards may show up, including senior Lavoy Allen and junior twins Markeiff Morris and Marcus Morris.
Team: LSU
Doors Open: 7 p.m. (Central) at Pete Maravich Center.
Giveaways: The first 500 fans receive T-shirts. Fans will also compete against men and women's teams in 3-point contests and relay races.
Agenda: After a 45-minute autograph session, both the men's and women's teams will compete in a handful of competitions, including a 3-point contest.
What to Watch: This will be the first chance for most to see transfers Dameon Mason and Terry Martin, who are expected to play major roles. It will also be interesting to see how healthy point guard Tack Minor looks after taking a medical redshirt year last season.
Recruits Attending: None.
Team: North Carolina
Doors Open: 6 p.m. (Eastern) at the Smith Center.
Giveaways: The first 6,000 fans receive team towels.
Agenda: The event begins at 7 p.m. with UNC alum Stuart Scott emceeing once again. There will be a long series of skits involving the players, contests and a scrimmage.
What to Watch: This will be the unofficial unveiling of the Tar Heels' top-ranked recruiting class - and a possible sneak peak at Roy Williams' rotation. Will five freshmen play together? Will we get to see how point guard Tywon Lawson and power forward Brandan Wright, who were both five-star prospects, look on the first team?
Recruits Attending: Two of the top 10 prospects from the class of 2008 Samardo Samuels and Delvon Roe and 2009 prospect Akeem Richmond.
Team: Texas A&M
Doors Open: Fans usually begin to arrive at 11 p.m. (CT) at Kyle Field.
Giveaways: None.
Agenda: The event will be held in conjunction with Yell Practice, the Aggies' traditional pep rally that begins at midnight. A basketball court will be set up on the East sideline. The men's team is expected to take the court at 12:25 a.m., and put on a dunking exhibtion but won't scrimmage. Coach Billy Gillispie and some players will also address the crowd. Last year they drew more than 26,000 fans.
What to Watch: The Aggies landed perhaps the greatest recruiting class in school history, but their most important addition is a member of their 2005 class. Chinemelu Elonu, a 6-foot-10 center who redshirted last season, is a tremendous shot blocker and will give the team a dimension it lacked last season. So will freshman shooting guard Donald Sloan, who has the athleticism and leaping ability to grab plenty of attention at an event like this.
Recruits Attending: Three senior commits are making the trip to College Station, including five-star center DeAndre Jordan and guards B.J. Holmes and Derrek Lewis.
Team: Connecticut
Doors Open: 6:30 p.m. (Eastern) at Gampel Pavilion.
Giveaways: Player autographs, T-shirts, and other prizes.
Agenda: The event begins with a 45-minute autograph session. The men's portion begins at 8:45 p.m. with player introductions, followed by a 3-point contest, dunk competition and a 15-minute scrimmage.
What to Watch For: The rotations that Jim Calhoun uses. After losing five starters and reeling in an eight-man recruiting class, even the Hall-of-Fame coach doesn't have a good grasp on what his starting lineup will look like. Much of the attention will be on highly touted guard A.J. Price, who will be playing in front of fans for the first time in more than two years (he underwent brain surgery and also was involved in some off-the-court problems). Expect freshman wing Jerome Dyson to impress. He has the size and physical tools to play heavy minutes immediately.
Recruits Attending: Sophomores Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs, who have both already committed to the Huskies. Five-star junior Devin Ebanks is a possible visitor as well.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his weekly mailbag.



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