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Day-night of ‘madness’ signals onset of a season of expectation

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in News

The madness has begun for University of Memphis Tigers basketball – version 2011-12. The madness has begun for University of Memphis Tigers basketball – version 2011-12.

 Memphis Madness has become a sellout event that sometimes brings “new Tigers” into contact with those with Tiger-like dreams. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

 Memphis Rapper Yo Gotti got plenty of dance-move support from the Tigers.

And while an argument can be made that there is no off-season for Tiger basketball madness, this season’s madness was ceremoniously ushered in on Friday (Oct. 14) at FedexForum. Fans started to gather at noon to watch the men’s and women’s basketball teams gear up and showcase dunks, three-point shots, practice skills and dance moves.

Antonio Barton emerged as the three-point shootout champion, snapping the title from senior Wesley Witherspoon and scoring all 10’s with the judges, including celebrity judges Zach Randolph, Elliot Williams, Thaddeus Young, Andre Iguodala, Penny Hardaway and hip-hop producer Drumma Boy.

 D.J. Stephens was named winner of the slam dunk contest defeating Will Barton, who jokingly said Stephens was not supposed to be in the contest.

“Before the dunk contest my knees were feeling a little sore and I was just thinking I was going to rest,” said Stephens. “Then a bunch of people were like, ‘You gotta do one dunk. The crowd wants to see you dunk.’ It was a good turnout and I still had a lot of fun tonight.”

The event annually draws a crowd of 18,000-plus and features performances from top tier rappers. This year, fans were expecting rapper Rick Ross, aka Ricky Rozay, whose appearance was scuttled after he became ill.

After a Twitter video was posted by Ross assuring fans that he was OK and would be performing in Memphis, Ross’ plane had to make a second emergency stop in Birmingham due to illness. Memphis’ Yo Gotti showed up in Ross’ place and for the third year, fans were on their feet during the exciting, yet lyrically-controversial performance.

The doors opened at 5:30 p.m. and thousands peeled into the arena looking for the best seats. The lower bowl of the arena was reserved, but seats at the club level and higher began to fill fast. Shortly after 6 p.m., the club level was filled and so was most of the top tier.

By 7 p.m., fans were abuzz as the cheerleaders and pom squad were center-court performing all of the Tiger regular-season cheers to the tunes of the band.

Then the house lights went down as the women’s basketball team was introduced. A short interlude from Head Coach Melissa McFerrin preceded and words were added by senior-standout and Conference USA Player of the Year Brittany Carter. The Lady Tigers held an intra-squad scrimmage, showing off their skills and providing attendees with a glance of the Conference-USA preseason favorites.

K97 personalities Mike Evans and Devin Steele hyped the men’s basketball team. Head Coach Josh Pastner weighed in on his team, the evening and the season. And as each team member came onto the court to different songs and dances, the crowd cheered.

“It was bittersweet knowing that it was my last one,” said Witherspoon. It was an emotional moment.”

 Witherspoon said he attempted to explain the moment to the new players.

“There’s only so much you can tell them. I remember my first time. I was just as nervous as they were.”

Freshman swingman Adonis Thomas said he was so excited, kind of anxious and nervous.

“It was way more than I expected,” said Thomas. “The fan support here is unbelievable.” he said.

NOTE: The men’s basketball team will hold its first exhibition game against The LeMoyne- Owen College on Nov. 2 at the FedExForum, and will face Belmont at the FedExForum on Nov. 15 in the season-opener.

 The Lady Tigers showed off their skills during an intra-squad scrimmage.

Hometown favorite Joe Jackson throws down a dunk.

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