Created on Saturday, 13 October 2012 04:28
Written by RJ Sepich / Sports Editor
Pitt junior forward J.J. Moore won the dunk contest at Midnight Madness on Friday night. (Sheldon Satenstein, Senior Staff Photographer)
The evening began with fireworks and lasers and ended with laughs and dunks.
On a chilly Friday night, the Pitt basketball teams ventured out of the gym and onto Bigelow Boulevard as the University kicked off its homecoming weekend in style on a blue outdoor basketball court in front of the Cathedral of Learning, that displayed lights reminding everyone of Pitt’s 225th anniversary.
After the annual homecoming fireworks and laser show, sponsored by the Pitt Program Council, Pitt celebrated the beginning of basketball season by hosting an outdoor Midnight Madness event, introducing the thousands of students, alumni and fans in attendance to both the men’s and women’s teams. The event was broadcast on ESPNU.
The night started on a somber note as a video board beside the basketball court played a tribute to former Pitt sports information director, college sports personality and Pitt alumnus Beano Cook, who died on Thursday at the age of 81.
Both basketball teams arrived via bus, and Bill Hillgrove — the voice of Pitt football and basketball — took the microphone and introduced the players on the women’s basketball team, including 6-foot-11 freshman center Marvadene “Bubbles” Anderson.
Hillgrove was about to move on to presenting the men’s team when Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon interrupted him.
But for a moment, nobody realized it was Dixon.
The men’s basketball coach was wearing a Flint Tropics jumpsuit with an orange wig to impersonate actor Will Ferrell’s character Jackie Moon from the 2008 film “Semi-Pro.”
Pretending to be Moon, Dixon proceeded to announce the members of his team, giving a sarcastic fun fact about each of his players.
Showing a rarely seen comedic side, Dixon told fans that freshman point guard James Robinson’s favorite movie is “The Notebook” before embarrassing redshirt junior forward Talib Zanna by revealing that he has a poster of teen heartthrob Justin Bieber in his bedroom.
After joking about all of his players, Dixon finally stopped the act and returned to his normal, serious self.
Some of Dixon’s players couldn’t believe that their usually reserved coach would transform into such a prankster.
“I’m speechless,” freshman center Steven Adams told ESPN announcers Bob Picozzi and Bill Raftery. “I didn’t even know if it was Jamie at first. I was like, ‘What the hell.’”
Senior guard Tray Woodall agreed.
“That shows so much personality from Coach Dixon,” he said.
Surprisingly, Dixon stayed in his costume for the entire evening, even when he sat down with Picozzi and Raftery for a serious interview about Pitt’s expectations for the upcoming campaign.
After redshirt junior guard Abby Dowd won the women’s 3-point shootout, members of the men’s team re-enacted three memorable moments from the basketball program’s history.
Against Oakland Zoo members pretending to be opposing players, sophomore guard John Johnson emulated Ronald Ramon’s famous 3-point buzzer-beater against West Virginia in 2008, draining the shot from the exact same spot on the court Ramon did.
Woodall’s attempt at copying Levance Fields’ game-winning shot against Duke at Madison Square Garden in 2007 bounced off the rim, but even that couldn’t suppress the festive atmosphere of the crowd.
Finally, junior forward J.J. Moore channeled his inner Jerome Lane by slamming home a fast-break slam. But unlike Lane’s dunk against Providence in 1988, Moore wasn’t able to shatter the backboard — not that anyone would’ve expected him to.
With past moments remembered, some of the Panthers shifted their attention to creating new memories in a dunk contest in front of the large bleacher section filled by the student section.
Freshman Chris Jones and juniors Aron Nwankwo, Trey Zeigler and Moore all had two efforts to impress the judges — students in the Oakland Zoo — with their high-flying slams.
Earning two perfect scores of 10, Moore narrowly won the contest.
But he wasn’t done there.
Moore ended the night with an encore dunk, jumping over the 7-foot-tall Adams and slamming the ball through the temporary hoop.