McKale Madness: Basketball kicks off earlier

By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 17, 2005

Cowboy boots, Salley, Hummer highlight official start of season

The start of the Arizona men's basketball team's 2005-2006 season might not have come at the crack of midnight, but the madness enveloped McKale Center nonetheless Friday night.

Wildcat head coach Lute Olson showed up to McKale Madness wearing jeans and cowboy boots with the relaxed look defining the event.

"This is the greatest basketball town in America, and you showed that again," Olson told the crowd before taking a seat in the stands with his wife, Christine.

Olson was preceded by emcee John Salley, co-host on Fox Sports Net's "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," who sported Arizona gear and proclaimed that Arizona would be national champions in 2006.

The last time Salley hosted this type of an event was at Connecticut's Midnight Madness in 2003, the season they went on to win all six games of March Madness to take home the title.

The main event of the night was the 20-minute scrimmage between the team's upperclassmen and underclassmen.

The older Wildcats took the game 52-45, which started out with smiles but ended with gritty competition.

Freshman forward Marcus Williams led all scorers with 18 points, most coming with Adams playing tough defense.

The play of the young forward from Seattle had Olson talking highly of one of his top recruits.

"You can see why we're excited about Marcus Williams' ability," Olson said. "He shoots the ball well, takes the ball to the basket. He's going to be awfully good."

Sophomore guard Jesus Verdejo contributed 15 points, never letting on that this was just a scrimmage among teammates.

"Even though we had fun tonight, I just took that as a huge game because we have to play every game like it's our last," he said.

After Salley's entrance, each Arizona basketball player put his own stamp on the event with a personal way of showing the crowd the roster.

Freshman forward Fendi Onobun walked out donning a bulletproof vest with the words "Fendi Cent" across the chest, playing off the popular attire of rapper 50 Cent.

Junior center Kirk Walters did a version of the worm dance that had his teammates gushing with laughter before the seniors showed up in a yellow Hummer.

"Nobody saw it coming, but it's something I did back in high school and had to bring it out for McKale Madness," Walters said with a smile.

Introductions were followed by a shootout between some of the players, followed by the dunk contest.

Senior Hassan Adams took the event with ease, capping it off with a one-on-one matchup with Salley that ended with a furious one-handed slam.

"We want it to be a fun night, that's what the fans come for and the guys have a lot of fun with it," Olson said. "By the time they crawl out of practice (on Saturday) they will know that practice season has started."