By Rob Daniels
Staff Writer, UNCGSpartans.com
Only the opposition was missing. And – fear not – that's on the way.
The UNCG men's basketball program unveiled itself to a solid, mostly student-based crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum on Sunday in an eclectic event with a 3-point shooting exhibition, a dunk contest, an intrasquad scrimmage and a "dance-off." The GO BLUE Preview, the first UNCG-sponsored event of its kind at the Greensboro Coliseum, served several simultaneous purposes as the Spartans prepare for what is by one measure the most ambitious nonconference schedule in Division I.
"It was a good turnout, and that's what I'm looking forward to – a lot more people supporting us," guard Kyle Randall said. "This is a good sign."
The attendees ran the gamut from the erudite (Chancellor Linda Brady) to well, Swish, the Sam Kinison-channeling half-mascot and half-cheerleader.
"Our people did a great job of promoting this," coach Mike Dement said.
Although probably wishing he could stop things to instruct from time to time, Dement was a good sport about it. The informal session doesn't count in any coach's mind as a practice – the Spartans went through one of those earlier Sunday – but it did put the program's six new players under the lights and in front of a crowd.
"We have a lot of freshmen, and you could tell they were nervous," Dement said. "But this got all of that out of the way."
For the athletics department administrators overseeing marketing, the day was designed to get students – particularly new students – in the habit of getting from campus to the coliseum. That process is facilitated by university transportation providing door-to-door service.
"Every time we bring them here, it's an educational piece," said Emily Snow, director of marketing.
"We're trying to let them know that it's not that hard," said Tim George, associate athletics director for external relations. "We're hitting the freshmen hard so they understand that you can get here even if you don't have a car."
The afternoon included concessions sales, an autograph session and various displays of talent, the most popular of which was the dunk contest. David Williams, a freshman swing man from Jacksonville, Fla., won that one with a double-pump, up-and-under slam. Williams failed in his first attempt at the maneuver, but he stuck with it in the second round.
A four-judge panel, made up of men's soccer coach Justin Maullin, women's basketball player Monique Floyd and two randomly chosen students, was unanimous in its verdict for Williams.
"The creativity was all there," said judge Michael Howell, a sociology major from Walkertown, N.C. "I saw that when he tried it in the first round. When he came back and got it on the second try, I said, 'There it is.' I like that. That showed confidence."
Every Spartan except Trevis Simpson, a freshman forward out another two weeks with a shoulder injury, saw action in the intrasquad scrimmage. For the record, the Blue defeated the Gold 33-32 in the 21-minute session. The Gold team got a 3-pointer, a steal and a layup in the final five seconds but ran out of time.
The Spartans will play an intrasquad scrimmage with officials and standard scoring and timing rules next week, and two closed exhibitions against other Division I teams will precede the Nov. 12 season-opener at VCU. The home schedule begins on Nov. 14 when Florida State comes to the coliseum for a 3:30 p.m. game, and that sort of competition won't be an anomaly.
In all, UNCG plays 54 percent of its non-conference games (six of 11) against 2010 NCAA tournament participants. That's the highest such percentage among the 340-plus teams in Division I. In addition to FSU, the Spartans host Duke and Richmond, and they play consecutive road games against Maryland, Wake Forest and Clemson in December.
The home schedule also brings Virginia Tech, an NIT participant a season ago, to the coliseum. Single-game tickets go on sale via Ticketmaster on Oct. 22. Full season and "Gimme 5" packs are already available for sale.
Other signs of the season are evident around the Triad. Billboards are up on Interstate 40, and radio and television spots are imminent.