BLOOMINGTON — As crimson-and-cream clad Indiana fans filed into Simon Sjkodt Assembly Hall for Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday afternoon, dreams of a breakthrough season came with them.
“My hope, as always, is a national championship,” said 28-year-old IU fan Andrew Cruez, who drove from Indianapolis to attend the event. “It’s always interesting at the beginning of every year to see how they are going to click.”
For IU senior Drew Lewis, from Lawrenceburg, it was a chance to see the team in action for the first time. Lewis was looking forward to both the dunk contest and the scrimmage.
“I’m excited because we have a lot of talent, a lot of potential,” Lewis said.
More than 10,000 fans showed up for the event which featured introductions of the IU men’s and women’s basketball teams, shooting, skills and dunk competitions. One of the highlights of the show was the return of former IU standout swingman Calbert Cheaney, who will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame next month. IU freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who won the dunk contest, wore Cheaney’s No. 40 for one final dunk as a tribute.
Cheaney offered his support for third-year IU men’s basketball coach Archie Miller during the ceremony. The Hoosiers are coming off a 19-16 season and haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2016.
“I’m 100 percent behind Archie and this program and what they are doing, and I hope you are, too,” Cheaney told the crowd.
Both Miller and IU women’s basketball coach Teri Moren addressed the crowd, thanking them for coming out and asking them for their continued support.
“It’s good to be back in the best college basketball arena in America and great to be back in front of the best college basketball fans in America as well,” Miller told the crowd.
“We just completed our first week of practice, and we’ve been working hard … This team can be special this year. It really can.”
In the 3-point shooting competition, in which men’s and women’s basketball players were paired together, the tandem of men’s junior guard Al Durham and IU women’s junior guard Jaelynn Penn won. Men’s junior center Joey Brunk and junior guard Ali Patberg won the skills competition.
The afternoon concluded with a brief 10-minute scrimmage. Several projected starters, including point guard Rob Phinisee, shooting guard Devonte Green and center De’Ron Davis, were held out for precautionary reasons. Junior guard Al Durham got the scrimmage going with a 3-pointer and added a steal and layup in transition to score five points. Redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter, who sat out last year with a leg injury, took part in the scrimmage and scored a basket on a fade-away bank shot.
The 6-foot-7 Hunter has yet to have to a day off through a week of practice as he continues to work his way back to full health.
“I couldn’t wait,” Hunter said. “I mean the whole year off I was thinking about how it was going to be when I got out there. I love the fans here. I just love how they act when you get a score. I just love the atmosphere.”
IU sophomore forward Race Thompson, who also sat out stretches of last season due to various injuries, was glad to get the season off on a positive note in front of a big crowd.
“We have the best fans in college basketball,” Thompson said. “So it was no surprise, really. It’s a lot of fun, and they show a lot of love, and we appreciate them a lot.”
IU announced before the event 6-2 senior guard Adrian Chapman of Brownsburg has joined the team as a walk-on. Chapman averaged 8.6 points as a high school senior. … Cheaney was asked his thoughts about the Fair Pay to Play Act, passed earlier this week in California, which will allow college athletes in the state to profit off their name and likeness starting Jan. 1, 2023. “Me, personally, I would like to see (players) come straight out of high school (to the NBA) again,” Cheaney said. “Because it will give them opportunity. If they are ready to go, there’s really no reason for them to stay a year, and the G League is trying to incorporate this deal where if you do decide to leave, you can come to the G League and play for $125,000 and develop your game there. For me, personally, I just think let them leave straight out of high school.”