"KnightTime Madness" festival at the Hammermill Center wasn't designed for a basketball diehard like me. An event that includes more dance routines and selfies than defensive slides makes me wish the regular season was here now instead of being exactly one month away. (Bring on Clarion already!)
But it was great to be back in the Hammermill Center and hear basketballs bouncing on the hardwood and swishing through the nets. I do have a few observations from the evening to share with the Gannon Hoops faithful:
* I don't have any player insights to report. You can't tell much from a three-point contest with just two players (soph. walk-on Will Gadson was bested by freshman Joe Fustine) and a ragged dunk contest. I was surprised that sr. Jon Dogbo, fr. C.J. Byrd, and fr. Ian Gardener could even get up near the rim after sitting on the sidelines for over an hour.
* The most insightful part of the evening was John Reilly's 5-minute talk with the 200 or so fans in attendance. "We still have to figure out our personality," he said. "We have a lot to prove. I have a lot to prove. We've always been able to rebound and defend, and that's what we want to do again. Right now we're not a very good rebounding team."
* Reilly fielded a few questions from fans, which included the new 30-second shot clock and redshirts as topics. Reilly seemed enthused for the shorter shot clock (last year NCAA men played with a 35-second clock). "The shot clock's going to be big," he said. "I hope it can make our defense even more disruptive. The offense will need to pay a little faster." As far as which players on Gannon's 18-man roster will sit out this season, Reilly said, "We have an idea of who will redshirt but we're not ready to say who for sure right now. We will definitely have a couple redshirts."
* It was great to see several players who keyed last year's NCAA squad as seniors stop by to support their former teammates. Big men A'Daruis Porter, Raphell Thomas-Edwards, Rich Austin and guard Girbran Smith hung out with the Knights in the tunnel prior to the event. Smith, who when we last saw him at the Audi earned the PSAC championship over Indiana (Pa.) with a deep three-pointer, won tonight's fan half-court shooting contest.
* As I was driving home tonight, I saw Porter, Edwards, and Smith walking south on shadowy Sassafras between West 7th and 8th Streets and thought to myself, "Nobody is dumb enough to jump those dudes." I know I'd bounce off them and injure myself if I tried to mix it up with them.