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Former Lobos romp in the Pit

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Invite a few former Lobo basketball players.

Roll out a basketball.

Open the doors.

They’ll show up.

An announced crowd of 9,497 filled the Pit on Sunday night, enjoying a night of Lobo history – at least relatively recent Lobo history – watching 21 former players participate in the inaugural Lobo All-Star Game. The exhibition event was the brainchild of former player Cameron Bairstow and former UNM assistant Brandon Mason.

While the air conditioner wasn’t on top of its game, the entertainment was as former players such as Ruben Douglas, J.R. Giddens, Danny Granger enjoyed big nights in a relatively defenseless game.

The randomly selected Cherry roster, led by a game-high 32 points from Alex Kirk (2010-14) and 31 from J.R. Giddens (2005-08), topped the Silver roster, 127-124, in a game where the final score hardly mattered.

“The coolest thing for me,” said Bairstow, “was just to see guys I’d never seen before but I had heard about in the program’s history – just to see guys like Danny and Ruben and Tony Danridge on the same court and to be around those guys and learn from them.”

Pregame player introductions brought plenty of roars from the crowd and in the final minutes an unprompted standing ovation sent off the former players with a taste of the Pit many said they’ve longed for since playing at UNM – an experience several said is unmatched in any of the professional leagues, including the NBA, they’ve played in since.

“The Pit’s near and dear to my heart,” said Drew Gordon (2010-12). “It always will be.”

Ruben Douglas (2000-03), the 2003 NCAA scoring champion, got the crowd going early knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the opening few minutes, displaying his usual fearless shooting mentality.

“I’m not going to say I’m back,” Douglas said with a big grin after the game, “but it felt good. Like I told you before, it’s just like riding a bike.”

While Bairstow said he hopes the event does continue in the future, he isn’t committing to being the person behind organizing it again. Whether UNM actually takes on that chore or another player, several of the former players said they’re game to return and hope even more are invited.

“Actually, to get that invite was very humbling that they reached out to me,” Douglas said. “I thought it would be a good idea. We need to do this annually, get more exposure and keep some of the guys relevant, like Clayton Shields, Charles Smith. Even if they don’t play, just get them in the gym.”

DUNK CONTEST: The halftime slam dunk contest, clearly a highlight of the night for many fans, represented the old guard vs. new guard as much as anything.

Danridge, the NCAA’s 2009 slam dunk champion, was a crowd favorite and easily advanced to the finals, at one point swapping out his old school Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers for Kendall Williams’ sneakers before a dunk. His championship round dunk where he hung from the rim by his elbow drew a perfect score of 40 points.

“Tony Danridge’s still got it,” Gordon said. “That’s athleticism at its finest.”

But newcomer Deshawn Delaney (2013-15), who just wrapped up his brief two-year UNM career in March with the Lobos, couldn’t be ignored, dunking throughout the game and into the finals of the dunk contest where he soared to a perfect 40 score himself, earning a tie with Danridge for the dunk title.

Said Douglas: “I didn’t realize – who’s that dude that was dunking? DeDe, right? Deshawn, I didn’t know he could get off the floor like that. Maybe I am old.”

HUGH TWEET: Saturday night, Lobo fans got their first taste of Lobo nostalgia when former Lobo Hugh Greenwood posted a picture of him and former Lobo Luc Longley playing backgammon together in China.

Greenwood is on the Australia World University Games team and Longley is an assistant on that team.

Greenwood later tweeted a message to a Journal reporter joking that Longley was upset he didn’t get an invite to the All-Star Game, finishing the tweet with “Kirk vs. Longley = $”

ADDING A THIRD DIGIT TO THE SCOREBOARD: The last Lobo men’s basketball game played in the Pit was UNM’s 52-49 overtime win over Wyoming on March 7. Those 101 points in 45 minutes were nothing compared to the 251 points scored in 40 minutes (most with a running clock) scored Sunday. In fact, at the end of the first 10 minute quarter, the score was 43-32.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: Before the game, the was a moment of silence for former Lobo great Darrell McGee, the program’s all-time leader in assists who died earlier this month from complications due to a stroke.

THROWBACKS ON THE CALL: It wasn’t just former Lobo players in action Sunday night. Doing the radio play by play for 101.7 FM was former Lobo broadcaster Henry Tafoya, while former Lobo play-by-play man Scott Galetti was doing sideline reporting for ProView Networks TV broadcast of the game.

The event, which was not a UNM function and therefore not broadcast under UNM’s agreement with Learfield Sports, had current UNM play-by-play man Robert Portnoy doing the public address announcing in the Pit.

PEREZ: In Chris Perez’ four-season at UNM, he scored nine points. Sunday against the best Lobos of the past 15 seasons, he scored 11.

Lobo head coach Craig Neal gets ready to start the game From left:  former Lobo Basketball stars Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow  and Tony Snell. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Lobo head coach Craig Neal gets ready to start the game From left: former Lobo Basketball stars Alex Kirk, Cameron Bairstow and Tony Snell. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)