And they’re off.
The 2012-13 Runnin’ Rebels were unveiled at the Scarlet & Gray Showcase on Thursday night, and the raucous crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center liked what they saw.
Leading the way was freshman phenom Anthony Bennett, who won the night’s dunk competition, then paced all scorers with 15-points in a 20-minute scrimmage. It was a beyond-impressive outing for the 6-foot-8 power forward, and it probably won’t be his last this season.
“It was pretty cool,” said Bennett. “I just came out, gave it my all, helped my team and tried to put on a show for these guys.”
In addition to showing his athleticism with a couple of fast-break dunks, he also showed his range by burying a pair of 3-pointers.
And if Bennett’s performance wasn’t encouraging enough, another newbie made a name for himself during the scrimmage. Freshman Savon Goodman was a defensive demon, picking up three steals, five rebounds and generally harrassing everyone on the opposing team.
Sophomore center Khem Birch also looked like an impact player, converting some inside baskets and finishing with seven points and four rebounds.
It was a positive debut for the entire squad, and coach Dave Rice believes the team is capable of even more.
“There’s no doubt we have a good basketball team,” said Rice. “We’re trying to be a great basketball team before it’s all said and done, and we know how much work there is to be done.”
Bennett brings down the house
The field for the dunk contest was just three players, with Bennett, Birch and freshman Demetris Morant squaring off. Bennett was the runaway winner, especially after hitting on a pair of spectacular alley-oops.
In the first round, Bennett caught a lob from fellow freshman Katin Reinhardt (who was positioned about 10 rows up in the stands) and threw down a reverse double-pump. Things got even more creative in the finals, when Bennett caught a pass from Reinhardt while sailing over the “Mozilla” cutout that has become a staple of the fan section.
Morant countered by dunking over the Hey Reb mascot, but the contest was already a TKO in favor of Bennett by that point.
Bennett credited Reinhardt with the idea for his final dunk.
“Katin was like, ‘Hey we should get the Mike poster out,'” said Bennett. “And I was like ‘alright.'”
Marshall suffers minor injury
The field for the dunk contest was supposed to include senior guard Anthony Marshall, but the hometown hero sprained his wrist in practice on Wednesday. He was held out of the Scarlet & Gray scrimmage as well as the dunk contest.
Rice said X-rays were negative and didn’t seem too concerned about the situation.
“I suspect that if we had a regular season game tonight, he would’ve played,” said the coach. “It was more precautionary on our part, because he’s such a big part of what we do.”
Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates (@MikeGrimala).