Miners put on a show in Orange & White scrimmage

Jason Green, Staff Reporter

There was no Drake to introduce coach Tim Floyd like there was at the University of Kentucky. Nobody came out to the court dressed in KISS makeup like they did at Michigan State, and there weren’t any motorcycle wrecks like Tubby Smith’s at
Texas Tech.

This was the fourth annual Orange and White scrimmage that officially kicks off the men’s basketball season. Although the theatrics and celebrity appearances were lacking when compared to other schools, the game itself probably outdid anything that you will see at other schools. When it comes down to it, would you rather have second-rate celebrities or a chance for the fans and coach Floyd to get a look at what we have to look forward to this season?

UTEP is always at a disadvantage when it comes to having a fired-up group of young students to get rowdy at things like the Orange and White scrimmage. UTEP is a commuter campus and the student body is scattered around all of El Paso during most weekends. This is why scheduling the scrimmage just before a home football game was probably a very good idea. The attendance seemed to be about the same as last year.

Perhaps advertising it as a scrimmage is selling it short. The slam-dunk competition and 3-point shootout took place prior to the game. The crowd, which was smaller than any home game will be this season, was still arriving during the two very entertaining competitions. Those people who got to the Don Haskins Center 20 minutes late may not have any idea that junior center Hooper Vint can even shoot the 3, much less make it to the finals of the shootout.

If the chance to get a look at the incoming freshman such as Omega Harris and Terry Winn or the chance to see the seniors such as Cedric Lang and Julian Washburn in one more scrimmage isn’t enough, who knows if loud hip-hop music and spotlights is going to change anything. That being said, perhaps making it look like a little more than a well-organized practice could help to get people a little more excited.

For die-hard basketball fans such as sophomore history major Hannah Timberlake, the show takes a backseat to just getting a preview of this
year’s team.

“It was way more than what I was expecting,” Timberlake said. “I was very impressed with both teams. I enjoyed the dunk contest and the 3-point contest.”

UTEP doesn’t need over-the-top theatrics—it’s their style. That’s not to say that introducing the lineup with a spotlight on the individual players wouldn’t help. At least the crowd would get a chance to put a face to the name–speaking of names, it would have also helped to have the Don Haskins Center’s usual announcer as well. Freshman guard Trey Touchet was called Terry Touchet a few times, and the lack of enthusiasm from the announcer put a damper on the festivities more than the
late-arriving crowd.

The players made sure that the lack of theatrics and familiarity with the roster didn’t keep the crowd out of it. The theatrics were entirely provided by the White team and it was better than anything that Drake could have done. Coach Floyd was impressed by the energy in the building following an epic come back by the White team.

“It was fantastic,” Floyd said.  “They were excited and chanting. It wasn’t like an all-star game, to where people don’t know who to cheer for. They were in on every play. I doubt we’ll have a game in this building all year long as exciting as the orange and white scrimmage. It was fantastic.”

The crowd may have arrived late from their tailgating prior to the football game, but they weren’t disappointed by what they saw when they did arrive. The White team was led by freshman point guard Lew Stallworth and freshman combo guard Omega Harris. Their comeback from more than 20 points down to win the game in double overtime has some season ticket holders such as Chris Estrada excited about the future.

“The two that surprised me were Lew Stallworth and Omega Harris,” Estrada said. “I could see Lew running the point and Omega Harris at the two guard. That’s a good combination right there. We are very excited for this season.”

Timberlake also came away impressed by Stallworth as well.

“He was awesome,” Timberlake said. “He played good defense, played good offense. He could steal a ball, run a fast break. Just all around really good. Great hustle.”

The fans of the only basketball team in Texas to win an NCAA championship probably don’t need more than just good basketball to get butts in the seats. We have good basketball here and that’s what the intelligent UTEP sports fan wants to see.

You don’t need Drake or motorcycles to get you fired up for the season if you are a Miner fan. All you need is Stallworth running the point to perfection, Lang dominating down low, and maybe even Winn hitting the game-winning free throw at the end of double overtime. It is good basketball that brings in the fans and every year the Orange and White scrimmage is bringing in more and more.

If the scrimmage is any indicator, the fans aren’t going to want to arrive late anymore. They definitely aren’t going to want to leave early. This season began with an amazing scrimmage and looks like it will end with a tournament run—and hopefully a few more butts in the seats at the Don Haskins Center.

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected]