IU basketball is more than just a game. To the majority of the more than 16,000 fans at Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday, it’s a lifestyle.
With exception to those camping out all night, the die-hard fans from around the state congregated early Saturday morning at the front gates of the college basketball mecca, Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall. What Hoosier Hysteria is all about is for the fans to get a first look at what they hope to be the team that hangs the sixth banner in Assembly Hall.
One fan in particular, Grant Thompson from Shelbyville, Indiana, has been coming to Hoosier Hysteria for the past 16 years with his son.
He woke up at 4:30 a.m. to cook food to eat during their 10-hour wait in line. Then they made the hour-long trip to Bloomington for a first glimpse at this year’s Hoosier men’s basketball team.
“If you cut me open inside, I would bleed candy stripes,” Thompson said. “It’s all of our fiber and my son is the same way. We live and breathe Indiana basketball because there’s nothing else like it.”
Thompson said his favorite player was sophomore forward OG Anunoby and was looking forward to the emerging IU star putting on a show for the fans. Anunoby granted his wishes.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore handled teammates, freshman guard Devonte Green and sophomore forward Juwan Morgan in the first round of the dunk contest with a simple near 360-degree one-handed dunk.
Anunoby found himself in a contest in the finals, however, going up against freshman guard Curtis Jones. The brave freshman decided to use IU Coach Tom Crean as a prop in the finals as he promptly dunked over the nine-year head coach in just two attempts.
The freshman’s antics, however, weren’t enough to out-do the favorite. The calm Anunoby went up for another 360 turn while placing the ball underneath his legs and into the cylinder as the undisputed champion.
However, Anunoby wasn’t the only big man to shine in the skills competition on Saturday night. Sophomore forward Thomas Bryant was the unlikely candidate but took center stage winning the three-point competition.
Although women’s basketball junior guard Tyra Buss in the finale of the contest edged him, Bryant was pleased with the result after not wanting to participate in any of the festivities initially.
“It was good, I’ve got bragging rights in the locker room now,” Bryant said with a laugh. “I didn’t think I was going to do it. I didn’t really want to be in anything really, but coach made me.”
After the fun and festivities were over, the team split up into two even squads for the red and white scrimmage. Senior forward Collin Hartman, who had a sentimental night after sustaining a knee injury a few weeks ago, coached the white team while sophomore forward Juwan Morgan, not cleared to play yet due to a shoulder surgery, headed the red team.
While Green may have not made a name for himself earlier in the dunk contest, failing to execute a slam within the 60 second time frame, he redeemed himself in the scrimmage.
The freshman from North Babylon, New York, nailed five triples in the 12-minute scrimmage to lead the white team to a 41-29 victory.
“What impressed me a lot about him is that he’s willing to work,” Bryant said about Green’s play in practice so far this season. “He listens to a lot that we tell him to and he goes out there and plays his heart out, and I respect that a lot.”
Junior guard Josh Newkirk was also showcasing his hustle in the Hoosier fans first glimpse at the Pittsburgh transfer, creating problems initially on defense with junior guard James Blackmon Jr. who is coming off season-ending knee surgery.
ESPN’s analyst and former Virginia Tech head coach, Seth Greenberg was the emcee for the event Saturday, a man with no IU background. Although Greenberg is an outsider, he came out at center court in candy-striped pants as he addressed the crowd and was impressed with Hoosier nation as a whole.
“This was special,” Greenberg said. “You could see the passion, the tradition, the energy right here. And that’s what makes Indiana, Indiana.”