Martin Methodist (located in Pulaski, Tennessee) guard James Justice entered the College Slam Dunk competition as the wild card entry thanks to online voting.
He left Fogleman Arena with a championship belt for his efforts. The senior with a 52-inch vertical capped an entertaining night with a between-the-legs dunk, beating Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel to win the title.
Reaching the semifinals along with Justice and Gabriel were Miami’s DeQuan Jones and Clemson’s Bryan Narcisse. It’s been said many times before but it’s true: the college dunk contest was far better than the NBA “competition” in February.
Not sure about the background music but here’s the video Martin Methodist put together to boost Justice’s chances of getting into the competition:
Last year the contest was won by another unknown at the time of entry, Illinois College guard Jacob Tucker. Tucker’s now a Harlem Globetrotter (as are five other college slam dunk contest winners), so maybe that could be a career option for Justice.
Another big winner was Northwestern wing John Shurna, who not only won the men’s 3-point contest but beat USC’s Ashley Corral with a 24-point performance in the battle of the champions.
Shurna’s hardest work came in the men’s final, where he needed to knock down his final seven shots to beat Temple’s Juan Fernandez…and did it. Corral won the women’s competition by scoring 20 points in the women’s final.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.