The glitz and glam of recent years were gone at Friday night’s Hilltopper Hysteria event.
Instead, the members of the Western Kentucky basketball programs just wanted to say hello.
The WKU men’s and women’s hoops teams introduced the teams’ 16 new players at their annual practice kickoff in E.A. Diddle Arena, but without much of the usual fanfare.
There were no dunk contests or elaborate dance-offs. Just simple introductions and a taste of what’s to come.
Each team played a 10-minute scrimmage with a running clock, providing just enough action to usher in the start of the season.
What fans saw was a different brand of basketball than the scrimmages of past years. The men’s Red team picked up a 19-14 win, led by Gordon’s six points.
The White team logged an 11-3 victory in the women’s scrimmage, as freshman guard Ileana Johnson led the way with six points on two 3-pointers.
Here are a few notable quotes from the night:
WKU freshman guard Derrick Gordon:
“We weren’t even worried about the dunk contest. Dunks are just two points. We just wanted to show the crowd what we’ve been working on up until now, and we played great.”
“You can see that everybody’s bonding really well. We like each other a lot, and that’s going to help us win a lot of games on the court.”
WKU men’s coach Ken McDonald:
“Guys handled themselves well. We shared the ball, we actually scored the ball pretty good. We had some good hustle plays. So, for a first night after a practice, I was very encouraged.”
“You see a different chemistry level than a year ago at this time. We’re building toward something. This is just the starting point.”
WKU women’s coach Mary Taylor Cowles:
“It’s always a remembrance that it’s basketball season – just about. This is my favorite time of the year, when we’re in the gym with lots of practice and preparation. It’s going great.”
The Hilltoppers’ number of new players rose to nine Thursday, when they added junior walk-on guard Jay Starks.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 187-pound Starks, an Allen County-Scottsville product, played two seasons at Volunteer State Community College and averaged 16 points per game in his final season there.
WKU must replace 66 percent of its scoring and 64.8 percent of its rebounding from last season, and its seven true freshmen are the program’s most in 35 years.
The Hilltoppers practiced for an hour early Friday, but they’ll hold their first full practice of the season this morning – one of two sessions planned for the day.