Though she tries to hide it, even SportsCenter co-anchor and IU alumna Sage Steele can’t help but embrace her Hoosier pride.
“College basketball is better when Indiana is in the picture,” Steele said. “It just is.”
After JD Campbell, assistant athletic director for media relations, called Steele months ago and asked her to emcee Saturday night’s Hoosier Hysteria at Assembly Hall, Steele said she couldn’t wait to come back to her alma mater.
“I started seeing on Twitter the pictures of the kids that were out here and saw that (IU Coach) Tom Crean was here with his wife, and I was thinking ‘Are you kidding me?’” Steele said. “There’s people who make me look young, and I’m not young anymore, lined up out there. Fifty, 60-year-old people, so that’s the neat thing.”
Steele walked to center court to start the events, dressed in a Hoosier Hysteria T-shirt and candy stripe sweatpants, and introduced the women’s team and new IU Coach Curt Miller.
Miller, who previously spent 11 seasons at Bowling Green, led the Falcons to a 258-92 record and took six Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honors in the process, said what the team needs most now is support.
“One of the things that we did at Bowling Green was we protected home court,” Miller said. “We were 60-4 in our last 64 games at Bowling Green.”
Following Miller’s introduction, the men’s team danced on the court led by junior guard
Oladipo stole the show Saturday, offering colorful commentary during the Long Shot Tournament and going back and forth with Steele.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller did not participate in the team’s skit, and as the players were announced, he was the last to make his way onto the court as all 17,472 fans stood on their feet and cheered.
Following player introductions, the men’s team took part in the Long Shot Tournament.
Senior guard Jordan Hulls was the No. 1 seed, but he fell in his first matchup to sophomore guard Jonny Marlin.
Even in defeat, Hulls gave a small tribute to his father, JC Hulls, who was in attendance and is battling cancer.
Marlin challenged Zeller in the finals, an unlikely matchup given Zeller’s size and Marlin’s second opponent.
Zeller continued to knock down baskets and took home the title.
The seven-foot sophomore said he didn’t surprise himself with his rhythm from beyond the arc Saturday night.
“I worked on it a lot this summer,” Zeller said. “I shot threes in high school a bit. I know I have to shoot outside more this year, to make it more difficult for teams to double-team me.”
After Zeller appeared to steal the show for a few moments, Oladipo took all the attention, winning the dunk competition in just one round. The judges, which included former Hoosiers Tom Pritchard, Daniel Moore and A.J. Guyton, unanimously gave Oladipo the title.
Oladipo earned a perfect score of 70 after his two dunks. After, he was able to showcase a few more, including a feed off the back of the backboard from Hulls before Oladipo slammed it down.
After the “O-la-di-po” chants began to subside, the men’s team, except for fellow forwards junior Will Sheehey and freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea who were both out with injuries, split into red and white teams for a inter-squad scrimmage.
Though some fans began to exit as the 15 minute scrimmage continued, the remainder of the crowd erupted when freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferell dished an alley-oop pass to Zeller, who finished it with a two-handed dunk, bringing Hoosier fans to their feet.
In the end, the red team pulled out a narrow victory 40-39 against the white squad. The red team was led by Zeller’s 16 points. Hulls led the white squad with 12.
The scrimmage ended the night’s events, but even as Steele thanked the crowd one last time, it was clear her Hoosier pride will continue.
“Go get ’em in 2012,” she said. “IU, baby.”