FOGGY BOTTOM - Friday night at the Charles E. Smith Center, the George Washington Colonials men's and women's basketball teams held their own unique version of Midnight Madness, the now-nationwide kickoff to the college basketball season. Dubbed "Colonials Invasion", the event highlighted the student-athletes on each team, with some entertainment and frivolity, and of course basketball, mixed in. A perfect way to kick off a season, if you ask me.
In recent years, George Washington has made a concerted effort to keep their midnight madness event more basketball-focused, rather than bringing in outside acts to entertain the hometown crowd. Gone are the days of the Harlem Globetrotters or NYC rapper Fabolous taking center stage. Now the attention is rightfully placed on GW athletics, as even the earlier start time of the event would indicate. "Colonials Invasion" began a few minutes after a GW Women's Volleyball match against Fordham, meaning there was already a nice crowd of fired up fans in the stands when the match ended and the "invasion" began.
University President Steven Knapp briefly addresses the raucous fans, and then the lights dimmed, the smoke began billowing, and with music blasting the members of the men's and women's team were announced to hoots, hollers and cheers from the "Buff and Blue"-adorned faithful in the stands.
Head women's basketball coach Mike Bozeman and new men's basketball coach Mike Lonergan briefly took the microphones, imploring those in the stands to make the Smith Center an imposing home venue when the Colonials take the court, as attendance has been down a bit in the past. Based on the enthusiastic reaction of those in the crowd to those statements, the newly renovated Smith Center may soon be a place opposing teams fear visiting.
Once the rah-rah speeches were completed, and the spirit/cheer/dance teams did their respective spiriting/cheering/dancing, the real on-court basketball fun began, and I'm not just talking about this humble scribe getting to judge a dunk contest (we'll get to that in a moment). This year, members of the men's and women's team competed in the inaugural "Buff and Blue Game," in which players from both teams as well as select students competed in three events: a three-point shootout, a "hot shot" contest and a slam-dunk contest.
Team Blue won both the three point contest and the hot shot competition, which entailed making a layup, free throw and half court shot before the other team. That left the grand finale of the evening for a fired up crowd, the slam dunk contest. Ten judges were on the esteemed panel, from former GW basketball greats (Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mike Hall and Chris Monroe from the men's team, Kimberly Beck from the women's team) to representatives of the university to local radio personalities (Jason "Lurch" Bishop of 106.7 the Fan's "Sports Junkies")...and then there was this guy. Now, as someone who could once jump and grab the rim while playing varsity basketball, I certainly have the credentials to judge a dunk contest. So it's a good thing they included me.
Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood had trouble getting his dunks down, forward Jabari Edwards jumped over 5'3' womens player Danni Jackson for a two-handed slam, and student Omar Faal had a nice 360 dunk, but they were all easily overshadowed by Lasan Kromah. Kromah missed all of last season due to injury, but you wouldn't have known it during the dunk contest. His initial dunk was the star of the night, a one-handed windmill he threw down after grabbing the ball out of women player Brooke Wilson's hands. Kromah would receive a score of 98 (out of 100) after that dunk, and dougie'd his way off the court for good measure after his crowd-pleasing slam. Lasan, if you're wondering who the crazy guy in business attire was who jumped up to give you a 10 on that first dunk, that was me. Next time, head on over to the judges' table and we'll dougie our way out of the building, together.
All in all, "Colonials Invasion" was a terrific event that captured what it set out to do - enthusiastically kick off the 2011-2012 college basketball season in front of an eager and excited crowd. For George Washington men's basketball, this year's event has an even more significant meaning: it represents the beginning of the Mike Lonergan Era after a decade with Karl Hobbs at the helm. Lonergan inherits a stacked squad, with four of five starters returning, including preseason All-Atlantic 10 guard Tony Taylor, the Colonials leader last season in scoring, assists and steals. Now let's see if Lonergan's squad can parlay the energy and excitement of a mid-October night into a month of tough practices and, hopefully, conference victories over perennial A-10 stalwarts Xavier and Temple in late January.
One remaining item from the "Invasion": anyone know where I can find and rent these weird inflatable thingies? Looking for something in a 7'7" Romanian ex-Bullet.
Check out the video below courtesy of Brian Sereno, Colonials Sports Marketing and GWFanVideos for highlights of the event: