Fan Jam 2006 success for Blue Raiders
Fans, players, coaches enjoy festivitiesOctober 27, 2006 · MT Media Relations
The elder statesman of the Middle Tennessee men's basketball team got his elusive dunk contest championship.
And the Middle Tennessee men's basketball fans that flocked to the Alumni Memorial Gym for "Fan Jam 2006" got their first glimpse of the 2006-07 Blue Raiders, who enter the season with expectations and are picked to finish third in the SBC East Division.
As far as the pupil and teacher, former standout Sleepy Taylor coached the Blue squad to a 26-19 win against the White, led by former coach Jimmy Earle, in a 12-minute scrimmage at the end of the event.
Young, a fifth-year senior who came into the program during Head Coach Kermit Davis' first season, won the dunk contest in a narrow 1-point decision against heralded redshirt freshman Desmond Yates in the finals.
In all, it was a highly-successful night as fans clearly are gearing up for Thursday's exhibition contest against York University, while anticipating the season opener at Tennessee, Nov. 10.
"I thought it was a great turnout tonight and I appreciate all the fans who were here tonight," Davis said. "I think we are having community support. Even on a night like tonight when the weather was nasty, we had a great turnout. I was glad to see a lot of the young kids out. I like the direction we are headed."
The evening included the introduction of this year's team and the staff, 3-point shooting contests, dunk contests, student and corporate teams in competitive games, various competitions, a 12-minute Blue-White scrimmage, and autograph and photo opportunities with players and coaches at its conclusion.
COACH VS. PUPIL: Earle won more games (164) than anyone who has coached men's basketball at Middle Tennessee during his 10 seasons leading the Blue Raiders from 1969-1979; however, he lost one to a former player Thursday.
Sleepy Taylor, who played for Earle from 1974-78, was the honorary coach of the Blue team, while Earle was the coach of the White squad, which lost 26-19 in the 12-minute scrimmage.
"I just told coach to look at the scoreboard," Taylor said jokingly regarding the outcome.
Taylor was instructing his squad throughout telling them to "get back," "block out," "rebound," "play defense."
It was as though the coaching seat was a perfect fit on this night, even to the extent of calling a timeout with under a minute remaining to remind the players to play with and protect the lead.
"When you coach you can't help but to get into the game," Taylor said. "During the timeout I just told them to slow the ball down, don't get in a hurry, and to play smart with the lead. Coach Earle will never let me live this one down.
"I'm glad I got to do it. Coach Davis is a good coach and he is getting good players in here. They improve every year. The players are going to listen to him and they are going to respond. He has it moving in the right direction."
Earle said being back inside the Alumni Memorial Gym brought back a lot of memories and if he had to lose at least it was to one of his favorite people. Taylor was on both of Earle's NCAA Tournament teams.
"Sleepy is one of my favorite people. He was a fine player and if he hadn't busted his knee cap his freshman year he may have been the greatest player I've seen here so I didn't mind that loss," Earle said. "I appreciate coach Davis asking us to do it. I think he's one of the best young coaches in the country and he's doing a fine job at Middle Tennessee."
Davis said the idea of having Earle and Taylor as honorary coaches tied into this year's 25th anniversary of Middle Tennessee's win against Kentucky in the 1982 NCAA Tournament. The team will wear throwback uniforms to that season at a selected game later in the season.
"Obviously coach Earle didn't coach that team but we are doing a lot of different things this year to celebrate that and I wanted to have the Fan Jam in the Alumni Gym this year along with that. I just thought it would be great to bring coach Earle back," Davis said. "He suggested Sleepy as the other coach and I thought that was great. Both of these guys are active in the community and I thought they added a lot to it."
DUNK SUPREMACY: Senior forward Kyle Young's dunking skills have drastically increased during his playing career at Middle Tennessee. Thursday night he demonstrated just how much by winning the dunk contest for the first time in his career.
Blue Raider football players Jonathan Harris, Pierre Ingram, and Damon Nickson judged the competition. Young edged redshirt freshman Desmond Yates by one point in the finals. They reached the finals with impressive round one scores. Yates led four Blue Raiders in the semifinal round with 46 points to reach the finals, while Young totaled 43 of a possible 60. Tim Blue and Nigel Johnson did not advance.
Young said he anticipated the chief competition from the outset.
"I figured it would be Desmond that would be my challenger because I figured Blue is still a little hobbled," Young said. "Desmond had a good dunk and I was kind of worried but I ended up winning by one point so it was definitely a good competition."
Yates blamed O'Neil for his inability to win the title in his first attempt.
"He gave me some bad advice. He denies it but I have it one tape," Yates said. "It was good, though, and Kyle is the five-year veteran. He's our leader. If I was going to get beat I would want it to be against him."
BOMBS AWAY: Sophomore point guard Kevin Kanaskie won the 3-point contest against Adam Vogelsberg, Calvin O'Neil, and Nigel Johnson with eight points. He then faced student winner James Bass in the player vs. student body competition and won by a rather decisive margin.
"I got lucky tonight and made a couple shots and Adam had an off night," Kanaskie said. "I hope it's a sign of things to come."
Kanaskie went first and knocked in eight points worth of shots and withstood Johnson and O'Neil while sweating out Vogelsberg's strong comeback attempt. Vogelsberg nailed five straight at the end but couldn't get the money ball to drop for the win.
NOW THAT'S FUNNY: Freshman Jay Ivey and Kanaskie were selected to compete in a sumo showdown were each player dons a sumo-type outfit and stands on opposite ends of the court. The first to get three basketballs in a can at halfcourt is the winner. The catch is there are obstacles in the path - human obstacles.
Kanaskie won the competition against the 6-foot-10 Ivey.
"I thought they were joking when they wanted me to go against big Jay Ivey," Kanaskie said. "He's got about 60 pounds on me but I held my own. I thought he was supposed to be a tough guy. It was fun. I'm glad I did it."
A group of approximately 80 Boys and Girls Club members were in attendance and participated in a tug-o-war competition against four Blue Raiders, winning handily.
"The games were the idea of Andrea Curran, our new marketing assistant for men's basketball," Davis said. "I thought she had some great ideas. People will see a lot more of that as the season goes on during timeouts and halftime and so forth, and you better because we are in a pro market and it's all about the entertainment value."
Student and corporate groups were able to enter teams into various competitions for the second straight year. MT Fan Club and First Tennessee Bank tied in the relay event, while Campus Crossing won the shooting competition.
ON DECK: Middle Tennessee will conduct its second Blue-White scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at 11 a.m. at Murphy Center.
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