The night served as the first chance for the public to get a look at this year’s Orange men’s and women’s teams, but the on-court product was overshadowed by a distinct lack of enthusiasm from a sparse crowd. An official attendance figure was not released, but I would be surprised if more than a few thousand people were there. The attached photo was taken after the men’s scrimmage ended (Orange beat White 55-46), but before the dunk contest began, and you can see that empty seats outnumber fans by about 6-1.
But I’m not here to rag on the event itself. We can save that discussion for another day. I’m here to discuss some basketball, and here’s my report card based on what I observed from press row on Friday night:
Head of the Class
Trevor Cooney: If the Trevor Cooney that showed up for Orange Madness plays that way all season, SU fans will be VERY happy. Cooney had by far his best public shooting exhibition on Friday, scoring 24 points on an efficient 6-9 (unofficially) from three-point range. His shot looked great, without the leans or fades which plagued his form last season. He looked confident and ready to pull the trigger, and that confidence translated into results (against an admittedly lax defense).
C.J. Fair: The preseason ACC Player of the Year will obviously be the focal point of the Orange offense this season, and with good reason. He looks like he has spent a lot of time in the gym fine tuning his game this summer. He shot 47% from three last year, yet looks even more comfortable beyond the arc. He has added a little jab step/step back jumper to his arsenal, and his enhanced shooting touch should open up more lanes for him to get into the paint and create for himself or others. Fair put up an effortless 14 points to lead the White team, and I look for him to have several scoring outbursts throughout the forthcoming season.
Team Shooting: In addition to Cooney, the rest of the team looked like they are ready to bomb away from deep this season. Several players made threes over the course of the 16 minute scrimmage, including Cooney, Fair, Ron Patterson, B.J. Johnson, and Michael Gbinije. That could be a welcome sign for a team that really only had one consistent outside threat last year in the departed James Southerland. SU saw several opponents try their own versions of the 2-3 zone in an effort to pack the lane and stop SU’s guards from penetrating, so if the Orange can hit from outside with any consistency it will do wonders for the other facets of their offense.
Stay After Class
Fan Support: Okay, maybe just a couple of comments about the event. I don’t know if it was the $5 ticket price, or the lack of a rap act after Ace Hood was removed from the program, but the crowd was very disappointing this year. How does a fanbase that sold out the Dome in a matter of hours to see Duke not come out for a specifically fan-centric event? Don’t tell me it’s because it’s an exhibition, because that didn’t seem to stop fans from showing up at Rupp or Cameron.
SU had several potential recruits in attendance Friday, and one would hope they didn’t walk away with a negative view of SU basketball fan support. ESPNU was also broadcasting portions of the event as part of their “Midnight Madness” show, and watching it later I noticed the Dome looked just as empty on TV as it did in person – even with the opportunity for season ticket holders and students to get in for free.
The Program: Fans aside, something was just missing from the event. A trio of students served as the hosts, but they didn’t have much material to work with. There seemed to be a lot of filler, ranging from Hilby the Skinny German Juggle Boy to multiple dance team routines to – and I’m not joking – a multi-song lip synch competition. I assume some of that was to cover for the last minute removal of Ace Hood, but I would have preferred they skip the ‘entertainment’ altogether and just focus on the basketball.
Final Grade: D
On the bright side, we got to see a glimpse of what the team will look like this season. Cooney and Fair looked great, as mentioned above. Guys like Tyler Ennis and Gbinije showed flashes of potential. There no incidents reported, and the people who were there seemed to have a good time. It’s just a shame there weren’t more of them.
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