TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At Florida, they unveiled a championship banner, had a dunk contest, laughed a lot. At Illinois, Entourage star Jeremy Piven manned the microphone. At Memphis, Hustle and Flow director Craig Brewer judged contests. And at Kansas, the junior class, led by Russell Robinson, won a competition based on the hit TV show Dancing With the Stars.
This is how many schools opened basketball practice Friday night. There were parties and fireworks, loud music and louder cheers. If somebody broke a sweat, it was probably the acrobats flipping around at George Mason, or the guys climbing the inflatable rock wall at Georgetown.
|Richard Hendrix and the Tide are getting coach Mike Gottfried's message about practice. (Getty Images)|
"This is the first day of practice, so we just want to practice," explained sophomore Richard Hendrix. "We want to work hard from Day 1."
So they did.
With little fanfare and even less buildup, this talented group known as the Crimson Tide took the floor at Coleman Coliseum on Friday night. In the stands were two writers, one recruit and about 100 other people, among them Brad Curfman, who must be a big basketball fan to be here on the front row, right?
"Actually, I'm just in town for the football game," said Curfman, an Alabama alum now living in Smyrna, Ga. "Kobie Baker, the director of basketball operations, is a high school friend of mine. I came to see him."
Well, whatever gets you in the building!
Truth is, Alabama doesn't advertise or promote its opening of practice like other institutions. So if 100 people were there, they came without encouragement or invitation, though the school did keep the doors open just in case fans outside already tailgating in anticipation of the next day's football game with Ole Miss wanted to catch a glimpse.
Only restriction: Keep it down.
PLEASE REMAIN QUIET DURING PRACTICE
Those were the words printed in red letters on white posters positioned around the building. It was the antithesis of Midnight Madness. On campuses around the country, fans were shuttled inside and implored to scream for TV cameras. Here, people were instructed to zip their lips, and at one point, Dru Powell, the manager in charge of grabbing the signs by the sticks and placing them in various cup holders, was asked if folks were cooperating.
"Yeah," Powell said. "I think everybody passed the test."