St. Pete Scenes
Women beat men in 3-point shootout 'Battle of the Sexes'
Posted: Friday March 26, 1999 08:21 PM
By Dan Shanoff, CNN/SI
TAMPA, Fla. -- Checking in from Thursday night's 11th annual college slam dunk and 3-point basketball championships, from the Ice Palace:
Memorable late entries
Florida Atlantic's Gary Durrant wasn't even supposed to be in the dunk contest. But with the competition going down across the Florida peninsula from his school, he couldn't pass it up. But how could he get the dunk-contest search committee, looking nationally, to look right around the corner?
Durrant used his own money to produce a highlight video of his best dunks. The tape eventually found its way to Intersport, which was producing the event and decided to add him at the last minute. He got the invitation Tuesday night.
Inspired by the crowd -- and spending more time signing autographs for eager kids than hanging out on the sideline with the other contestants -- Durrant brought a showman's touch to the night. In the semifinals, he distinguished himself with a crowd-pleasing dunk over a seated Dick Vitale. Slam jam, indeed.
In the finals, Durrant had to beat a 37.6 score, earned by Southern Illinois' Monte Jenkins after he vaulted over some arena signage placed in front of the basket. Then Durrant grabbed the Tampa Bay Lightning mascot.
On his first attempt, Durrant cleared the "lightning bug" (or whatever it's supposed to be) but missed the dunk (no score penalty). Durrant lined up for one last attempt. He skied over the head of the mascot -- between its antennae, in fact, like a human field goal -- completed the dunk with a vicious right hand, landed to the roar of the crowd and a chest bump from a relieved lightning bug, followed by a crush of youngsters eagerly embracing the new champ.
"I had a wonderful time with the kids," he said. "It was destiny."
His score? "37 ... point ...8 !"
Standing next to Grinnell 3-point ace Jeff Clement, he looks like a guy you'd pick up as a fifth for your Y game. The slightly doughy 5-foot-10 frame belies an assassin's touch from beyond the 3-point arc for Division III Grinnell, located in Grinnell, Iowa.
On Feb. 18, 1998, Clement set an NCAA record with 77 points in a 149-144 win over Illinois College. He said his team looks to score 100 -- per half -- and Clement usually gets more than 30 3-point shots per game.
But a Division III standout has trouble attracting the national spotlight. Only when NCAA Tournament hero Wally Szczerbiak pulled out of the event did Clement get the call.
"I was on my way to spring break in Key West with my buddies," Clement said. When Intersport asked if he would like to participate, he said, "I think I can rearrange my plans." To Clement, it was a dream come true.
Actually, all Clement did was swing by Tampa en route to the Keys, pulling on his crimson No. 10 jersey and taking the floor with some of the top long-distance shooters in the country: Arizona's Jason Terry, Kansas' Ryan Robertson, Arkansas' Pat Bradley, Stanford's Arthur Lee and Kentucky's Scott Padgett, introduced as "'Stone Cold' Scott Padgett," presumably a nod to his interest in pro wrestling.
To the dismay of his small but vocal spring break posse watching from nearby seats, Clement didn't make it out of the first round, though he shot a respectable 40 percent.
A stranger to the limelight, Clement seemed to be in a happy daze after the event, mustering a few cliches about "how happy I was to be here" and "I wish I could have shot better."
But for a player whose future holds -- at best -- a few semi-pro opportunities, Clement was treated to the experience of his career.
Not bad for a spring break trip.
Love it or Levett
The most spectacular dunk of the night came from Melvin Levett, the Cincinnati shooting guard with arguably the nation's best hops.
His effort in the first round was weak -- a simple up-the-middle windmill -- easily topped by Kris Clack's round-winning slam: a high-arching self-pass from the right wing that he collected on the left side of the lane and flushed seamlessly with one hand.
Facing early elimination, Levett -- also known as the "Helicopter," though our favorite moniker is "Levettate" -- had to come up with something spectacular. Raising the roof is so passe nowadays ... Levett tried to blow the roof off the Ice Palace.
Two dunks earlier, Southern Illinois' Jenkins split his legs and flew over a ball rack, finishing with a huge right-handed windmill jam. He scored a 39.2 (out of 40 possible points), the contest's highest rating from the judges -- Miami of Ohio's Charlie Coles, Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Jaquez Green.
Levett did Jenkins one better, lining up a second ball rack. Then he did him even one more better, lining up a third ball rack. The three racks extended almost midway between the dotted foul-line circle and the foul line.
The crowd was in a frenzy. Levett began his approach from half-court, leaping up ... up ... and over the racks, finishing with a powerful slam. The crowd went nuts. Levett went nuts. He ran toward the media table, directly at me. Was he going to attempt to hurdle the table and me, like some kind of ball rack? The 'Copter easily scaled the table, pumped his fist, then jumped into the crowd, where he was welcomed as a hero.
As I sat looking directly up at Levett as he stood over me, I had a single thought:
Oh, yeah. I could do that.
Battle of the Sexes
Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, eat your hearts out.
Clemson's intense Amy Geren earned a hard-won women's 3-point title, having to shoot an extra rack of balls as part of an early-round tiebreaker. In the finals, she faced the appropriately named Kelly DeLong of Western Michigan, who blitzed through the semis. While DeLong ran out of gas in the championship round, Geren seemed to get stronger, hitting an astounding 70 percent of her shots, to earn a spot in the so-called 3-point shooting "Battle of the Sexes" against Arizona's Jason Terry, who earned the men's title over Arkansas' Pat Bradley.
Terry missed a two-point "money ball" at the buzzer to tie, and Geren was finally able to smile as the other women participants mobbed her. Title IX? Looked more like Title III.
The top women's long-distance shooters have far more consistent style and fundamental soundness than the men. ...
Jumping over objects seemed to be the theme of the dunk contest. Among the fly-overs were a three-foot high arena sign and an Intersport production assistant, who seemed scared out of his mind as Monte Jenkins lined him up. The PA held his hands over his eyes; good thing, as Jenkins didn't quite make it over him. But the PA stood in and, as many commented, "took the charge." ...
Minnesota's Quincy Lewis thought he had his semifinal against Bradley won, until Bradley hit a 2-pointer in his last shot to edge Lewis 18-17. March hasn't been too kind to Minnesota's basketball program, has it? ...
In the 10 previous years of the contest, a few notable names have passed through en route to professional glories: Kendall Gill (Slam Dunk '90); J.R. Rider (Slam Dunk '93); little-known Lindsay Hunter (3-point '93); Wesley Person (3-point '94); Shawn Respert (3-point '95); Steve Nash (3-point '96).Check back for more St. Pete Scenes as CNN/SI covers the Final Four from St. Petersburg, Fla.
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