By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Fairmont State’s basketball programs started off the season with a slam dunk. Several of them, actually.
Caleb Davis used a windmill dunk and a pair of 360 slams to edge teammate Trevor Andrews-Evans in a dunk competition, much to the delight of the Fighting Falcons basketball supporters gathered at Joe Retton Arena.
The competition was just one of many events at Thursday night’s Fan Fest, an event to introduce the players and gear the community up for a season of basketball.
“When we started Fan Fest last year, we were trying to get people excited,” women’s basketball coach Steve McDonald said. “We have two great products to show. I'm almost always positive if I can convince you to come out and watch us play, you'll come back again.”
The festivities began in the Feaster Center parking lot with a pre-party tailgate, featuring cornhole, free food and free T-shirts. Donors were also invited to a pre-party of their own in the Falcons’ new Hospitality Room.
The party continued into Joe Retton Area. The music was turned up and the smoke machines sprayed full-blast while the men’s and women’s basketball teams were introduced to the crowd.
As the smoke floated to the ceiling, the lights turned to men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun, who took the microphone to deliver a promise.
“The last five games last year we averaged 3,000 fans,” he said. “Our goal this year is to get about 3,500 fans every game. If we can do that, I promise you these guys will bring back a conference banner and a national championship banner.”
Calhoun and McDonald emphasized that their goal this season is to engage the students at Fairmont State and create a home-court advantage. Earlier in the evening, Calhoun spoke directly with the students and discussed the importance of getting involved with their university.
“As you look in that crowd, it's student driven,” Calhoun said at Fan Fest. “It's amazing how great our student section is. It's going to be crucial this year for you guys to be our sixth man.”
After the introductions, the men’s team played a brief scrimmage. While the defensive effort left something to be desired, the high-flying dunks and deep 3-pointers more than made up for it.
The scrimmage was followed by a 3-point shooting contest where select fans, mostly youngsters, got to compete against the women’s basketball team. The smooth-shooting women were too much for the kids to handle in this case.
The evening concluded with the players signing autographs for the fans.
“It’s amazing when you start building a little bit of a tradition what happens,” Calhoun said. “It’s just amazing to watch this program building into a national contender.”
The quest for the national championship Calhoun wants begins with an exhibition on Nov. 4 at West Virginia University in what the coach called “the game everyone is talking about.” The men’s and women’s teams will begin the season in earnest on Nov. 9.
Email Mike DeFabo at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.