By Tyler Alley
Lariat Sports Editor
Baylor men’s basketball kicked off its 2011-12 season Friday with Moonlight Madness at the Ferrell Center as part of ESPNU’s Midnight Madness.
“I think the last couple years a lot of fans have said, ‘Why don’t we do a Midnight Madness?’” head coach Scott Drew said at the press conference prior to the event. “This is the year to do one. Whenever you can get ESPN to put it on national TV, and then with the outstanding dunkers we have this year. I think it could be one of the best college dunk contests ever when you’re talking Perry Jones, Pierre Jackson, Deuce Bello. There are some great dunkers.”
The Madness began with an introduction of each player on the team, from freshmen to seniors.
The first event was the 3-point contest with eight contestants: junior guard A.J. Walton, senior forward Fred Ellis, senior forward Anthony Jones, freshman forward Quincy Miller, sophomore guard Brady Heslip and sophomore guard Gary Franklin, as well as senior guard Terran Condrey and sophomore guard Odyssey Sims from the Lady Bears. Senior forward Quincy Acy and sophomore forward Perry Jones III predicted the same winner for the 3-point contest.
“Brady will win the 3-point,” Acy said.
Each contestant had a student partner who shot from two of the five stations while the player shot from the other three. The final came down to Jones and Heslip; Jones and his partner Whitney Wakefield, a senior business fellows and music and entertainment marketing major from Waco, won with 13 3-pointers to 12, earning Wakefield free textbooks. The next event was the dunk contest with four contestants: redshirt sophomore Cory Jefferson, junior guard Pierre Jackson, Jones III, and freshman guard Deuce Bello.
“Pierre Jackson and Deuce Bello are probably are two best dunkers,” Jones III said. “[Pierre] is little but he has springs. He can jump. He’s the most athletic guy on our team. Deuce is the behind-the-back on a fast break kind of guy. Wind-milling at half court. He definitely has some tricks with the ball.”
The scores for the contest were decided by a five-judge panel. Four former Baylor players served on the panel: Mamadou Diene, Pat Nunley, Terry Black and Ekpe Udoh. Baylor women’s basketball star Brittney Griner was the fifth judge. Jackson defeated Bello in the final round with two crowd-pleasing dunks. Pierre caught a pass from sophomore guard Gary Franklin off the side of the backboard and slammed it home. He then took an encore with a reverse dunk off a high toss to himself. The final event was the intra-squad scrimmage between the green team and the gold team. The gold team won 47-32. Heslip led the gold team with 13 points. After the scrimmage, the team, including head coach Scott Drew, signed autographs for the fans at the event. Baylor was one of 11 schools showcased on ESPNU’s Midnight Madness, which aired from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday.
Baylor missed the postseason in the spring, the first time it has done so in four years. Despite this, the team has been ranked as high as No. 9 by Sporting News and is the preseason favorite to win the Big 12.
“I don’t know why. We didn’t even go to the tournament last year,” Acy said. “We got a lot of talent, and that say a lot about us, but there’s no pressure. We don’t really look at ranking. We were number nine last year, and we ended up not even going to any tournament.”
The team comes into the 2011-12 season multiple additions to the team: the two freshmen, Bello and Miller, along with transfers Heslip and Franklin, as well as junior college transfer Jackson.
“Pierre’s a good player,” Walton said. “Glad to have him playing with us this year. He’s gonna do whatever it takes to help us get the win. He can shoot, he can pass and he’s a pesky defender. Gary Franklin, like Pierre, is a combo guard. He can shoot it from deep. Brady Heslip, the Canadian sensation. We’re just gonna let him get the ball at the 3-point line and put it up, wherever he’s at.”
Baylor played four games in Canada, going 3-1 on the foreign tour.
“I think it was good to go to Canada and play with each other,” Jackson said. “I got a feel for my team. Got to know my personnel at certain times.
Who to pass to in certain situations and who not to.”
Baylor opens play with an exhibition against Abilene Christian on Nov. 1 in Waco.