ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No Scrimmage But Team Busts a Move
The UNM women’s basketball team had two goals for Friday night’s Lobo Howl.
1. Make sure no one gets hurt.
2. Set a positive tone for the coming season.
Both missions were accomplished as the Lobos played no actual basketball but put on an entertaining show for 4,622 fans at the Pit.
The highlight was a group line dance, organized and performed by the players. It lasted several minutes, and included portions of such well-known songs as “Thriller,” “Tootsee Roll” and “Macarena.”
Fans (and players) laughed through most of the performance but roared in approval when it ended and the Lobos headed up the Pit ramp.
“That was one of the goals of the dance,” freshman Jordyn Peacock said. “We wanted to get the fans involved and feeling positive. I think it did that.”
It was a stark emotional contrast from the 2011 Howl, when standout wing Sara Halasz suffered what would prove to be a season-ending knee injury. Lobo coach Yvonne Sanchez called off the rest of the evening’s scrimmage and fans left on a decidedly down note.
“That was heartbreaking,” said freshman Khadijah Shumpert, who watched last season’s Howl along with Peacock from the stands. “My first time out here, to see that was really hard.”
This time there was no women’s scrimmage. Halasz and Caroline Durbin came up with the surprise, alternate entertainment.
“We did some research,” Halasz said of the dance compilation. “They’re all songs everyone knows. We just wanted to have fun with it tonight.”
Halasz, who missed the past two seasons with back-to-back ACL tears in her right knee, did manage to show some nondance skills. The redshirt junior won the Lobos’ 3-point shooting contest with 16 makes in roughly one minute.
“I’ve still got it,” Halasz said with a wide grin.
Sanchez also was all smiles during her second Howl as head coach. She started by thanking fans for sticking with the Lobos through an injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign in which her team finished 11-20. At times that team had just six scholarship players in uniform.
After introducing the 15 current Lobos on Friday, Sanchez added: “I know this seems like a lot of players, but we’re really happy. I think we have a chance to make some noise this season.”
The Lobos, with seven new players in uniform, managed at least to flash some basketball skills Friday. They worked through several shooting and passing drills before moving to the 3-point contest.
Still, by far the most memorable performance was the dance.
“Sara came to me with that idea,” Sanchez said. “At first I was reluctant, but then I thought, ‘What else will we do to fill the time?’ The Howl is really for the fans, so ….”
Halasz and Durbin organized the dance routine and held several practice sessions before the Howl. Coaches were not permitted, allowing them to experience the routine for a first time Friday.
As one might expect, some players demonstrated more rhythm than others. Halasz and Antiesha Brown hammed it up, while other players smiled nervously. All were laughing as they walked up the ramp afterward.
“I thought it was great,” Sanchez said, “but if they can’t remember plays after they remembered dance steps, I’m not going to be happy.”
Fans will get a chance to judge for themselves next week. The Lobos will hold the first of two open intrasquad scrimmages at the Pit at 5 p.m. on Oct. 20. Admission is free.
“I can’t wait,” Halasz said. “Tonight was great, but I can’t wait to actually play.”
NOTE: Lobo recruits Brooke Allemand and Alex Lapeyrolerie, both prep seniors from Texas, watched Friday’s Howl from the stands with their families. Allemand, a 5-foot-10 point guard from San Antonio, and Lapeyrolerie, a 5-11 wing from the Dallas area, have committed to join the Lobos in 2013-14. They now have a full year to work on their dance moves.