Vandy has first madness in 6 years
Kevin Stallings preferred not to have a Midnight Madness.
Yet, the Vanderbilt coach was front and center on Friday night.
Stallings sent 3,500 fans at Memorial Gymnasium into pandemonium when he made a half-court shot from behind his back - on the first try.
''I've never seen him practice it. I think it's just God-given talent,'' freshman guard Dai-Jon Parker said. ''It's just like Larry Bird putting the ball in the basket. It just happens.''
On the first day of college basketball practice, it was the just second time - and first since 2005 - that the Commodores have held such an event since Stallings took over 13 years ago.
''Absolutely the kids wanted this,'' said Stallings, who played at Purdue. ''I wanted to practice, go home and watch the Cardinals baseball game. But they wanted this so that is why we're doing it. I'm sure it is exciting for them.''
Stallings, a native of Collinsville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis, appeared to have fun as well. Midway through his players' sub-par slam dunk contest, he grabbed the microphone.
''I really thought the purpose of a dunk contest was to make a dunk,'' Stallings said. ''So if you guys can't make a dunk just lay it in.''
Parker, a freshman, eventually won the contest, which featured less dunks than a 10-minute scrimmage that ended the evening.
Stallings, however, had the last laugh again, reaching out to the fans.
''I do want to apologize for that terrible dunk contest,'' he said. ''It is the worst I've ever seen.''
Vanderbilt, a team with Final Four aspirations, returns all five starters and its top three reserves after going 23-11 last season. But the Commodores lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year, upset by 12th-seeded Richmond.
''We've been gearing up for this day,'' forward Lance Goulbourne said. ''We have a lot of energy, a lot of animosity kind of built up from last season. We don't really want to look backwards. We are looking forward. We are ready for a good season.''
Among those back are John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli. The trio combined to average 48 points last year and passed on entering the NBA draft last spring.
''More than ever before we are going to be the hunted rather than the hunter,'' Stallings said. ''We expect to get everyone's best shot. We look forward to getting everyone's best shot. We are excited about perhaps being a program that can have that said about them. Quite honestly, we have never been that program before. That has always been Kentucky or Florida or somebody else in the (Southeastern Conference). Maybe, we have a chance to be that program now.''