The 2003 edition of Purdue's Mackey Midnight Madness (M3) got the 2003-04 season started with a host of activities outside and inside Mackey Arena.
When approaching Mackey, it was obvious this was not yet another reluctantly held event. As a cover band played selections from Poison and Ozzy outside Gate A, tents lined the arena to give a little respite from the chilly October air. Purdue had brought in some electronic basketball shooting games for the kids, as their parents and about 1,000 students swapped stories. Crowds were small outside the arena, and would not grow substantially as the evening went on.
Once gates opened, fans got their first look at the "revamped" Mackey Arena. With the floor supposedly getting a refinish over the summer, no real visible change could be seen looking down. All the changes were above. Gone are the gold wall placards announcing Purdue's past Big Ten victories. Replacing them are groupings of banners around the ceiling, including a new men's national championship banner for the 1932 team. Directly underneath the larger national championship banner were banners for the Purdue men's 1969 NCAA second place finish, the 1980 Final Four trip, and the 1974 NIT title.
A welcomed sight were banners honoring Purdue's all-american players and their jersey numbers. Some of the players honored for the men were Mount (10), Robinson (13), Carroll (22), Schellhase (42), Dischinger (43), Murphy (27), Wooden (13), Cottom (7), Kessler (23), and Young (32).
For the women, all-americans honored included Holmes (40), Joseph (22), Lovelace (32), White (22) and Douglas (32). Yet despite the small grouping of banners honoring the five all-americans, the women had no other banners visible. Absent was any banner mentioning the 1999 national championship. Considering Curry had several recruits present for the evening and Gene Keady's only visit left before M3 even began, the athletic department rushed to get the wrong banners up first.
The evenings festivities began at 10:20 p.m., with a three-point shooting contest between four students. By 10:37, the announcer was introducing the participants of the men's alumni game. To the surprise of many, Matt ten Dam returned to Mackey to participate. He was joined by Craig Riley, Dave Barrett, Troy Lewis, Everette Stephens, Todd Mitchell, Tim Ervin, Maynard Lewis, and current Boiler assistants Tracy Webster, Todd Foster and Cuonzo Martin.
The alumni game started off with a Tim Ervin three-pointer of a Craig Riley steal. The pace was slow, except when Ervin or Barrett had the ball in their hands. Ironically, the two top performers on the evening were two guys who saw very limited time as players. Tim Ervin led the Black squad along with Cuonzo Martin to a 47-44 victory. By a few minutes into the 20 minute game, Matt ten Dam had eight points, two boards, an assist and a steal for the White squad. Ervin and ten Dam both eclipsed their career scoring totals in twenty minutes of alumni play.
The end of the alumni game led to a series of filler events for the next 40 minutes. Performances by the flag team, the dance squad, the cheerleading teams, and the Gold Duster squad were sprinkled in with several fan participation contests. The largest prize on the line was a year's tuition to the lucky student able to hit a halfcourt shot. Ten students were chosen to take the shot, with only one coming anywhere close.
Student participation in M3 was a little over 50-percent of a crowd that swelled to almost fill the lower bowl of the arena when player introductions began after 11:30 p.m. The women's coaching staff was introduced and brought out on the floor, with head coach Kristy Curry riding out on the Boilermaker X-tra Special.
The lights dimmed as the announcer began the player introductions. The players entered the arena, decending from the main concourse down the lower bowl to the floor. The introductions alternated from men to women until all players were on the floor. For the women, Shereka Wright and Katie Gearlds seemed to get the loudest response, while Brandon McKnight and Kenny Lowe seemed to be the fan favorites for the men.
Following the player introductions, the men's assistant coaches entered from the tunnel, followed by head coach Gene Keady dressed in black leather and dark sunglasses. Keady got high-fives from his team, then went over and high-fived the members of the women's team.
There was an obvious attempt to project unity between the men and women. Nothing illustrated this more than the slam dunk competition. A member of the men's team was paired with a member of the women's team whose job was to assist in the dunk. In the competition were David Teague, Melvin Buckley, Adam Liddell and Ije Nwankwo. While Buckley and Nwankwo struggled to get their dunks down, Liddell drew first blood with a simple running dunk. Liddell would put down another dunk, swinging on the rim a little for added effect, but it was the athleticism of David Teague that got the votes from the crowd. Teague's winning dunk was a running leaper over two members of the women's team. Liddell couldn't complete his final attempt, standing at the freethrow line, bouncing the ball backward between his legs and off the backboard.
Next up was the men's scrimmage. Playing 12 minutes with the clock constantly running, David Teague, Chris Booker, Chris Hartley and Ivan Kartelo led all scorers with six each. McKnight finished with five points, Kenny Lowe and Brett Buscher had four each, and the rest of the guys with a couple each including Kevin Garrity and Andrew Ford. The two teams finished tied at 25 at the end of 12 minutes, in a pace that was fast and relatively under control. Performances that stood out included the banging ability of Nwankwo (if only he could have finished), the smooth power of Chris Booker, the overall slick passing of the guards, the inability to guard Brandon McKnight, and the improved shooting motion of the previously injured Kenny Lowe. Chris Hartley came in and quickly hit two from long range which should help fill the role of zone buster on this year's team. Austin Parkinson even looked a half-step quicker.
Unfortunately, the end of the men's scrimmage sent about 1,000 fans to the exits as the women took the floor. Yet the crowd noise for the women did not suffer, as Shereka Wright went on to lead all scorers with 10 points. The women were not as balanced in scoring as the men, with only eight players getting on the scoreboard. Beth Jones and Lindsey Hicks had six points each, with Erica Valek hitting the only three of the night and finishing with five. Ashley Mays, Carol Duncan and incoming freshman all-american Erin Lawless added four each, with fellow incoming freshman all-american Katie Gearlds getting on the board with two.
Erica Valek is showing no signs of previous injuries, and has improved her speed to a blistering pace. Katie Gearlds looked to be filling roles from point guard to small forward, and scored of a post-up move. Like the men, the passing stood out as a strength of the team, as Curry has proven good hands is a key skill to play at Purdue. Erin Lawless was very poised around the basket, and has a deadly turnaround.
Recruits onhand for the women were senior Tyeisha Jackson and frequent visitor Jodi Howell, along with a couple additional unknown visitors.