NORMAL — One day the Illinois State sophomore men’s basketball players might lead the Redbirds to the Missouri Valley Conference championship and on to the Big Dance.
On Friday night, Jackie Carmichael and company showed they were the best dancers — by far — on the team.
In a 90-minute program devoted to entertainment and laughs more than baskets, the six sophomores outdid the five seniors and four freshmen in a dance skit with the cheerleaders during Redbird HoopFest before an estimated crowd of 3,000 at Horton Field House. ISU has no juniors this season.
The ISU men’s and women’s basketball teams kept the mood light in their first public viewings. The men hold their first full-scale practice this morning, while the women have been going since Oct. 4 under a new NCAA rule allowing them an earlier opening.
Senior Hannah Spanich and sophomore Anthony Cousin won the 3-point contest with a 16-10 victory in the finals over junior Katie Broadway and senior Alex Rubin. Freshman Alison Seberger and Carmichael were eliminated in the first round.
Redshirt freshman Jon Ekey got a perfect 50 score in the finals of the dunk contest, jumping over 5-foot-9 senior Matt Coates. Sophomore John Wilkins tried to match Ekey, but failed on a Michael Jordan-like running attempt from the free throw line. Sophomore Kenyon Smith was eliminated in the first round.
Both teams participated in a 10-minute scrimmage to conclude the program. Carmichael and Justin Clark showed no ill effects from sprained ankles that limited them in preseason workouts.
The women and men will next be on display during exhibition games at Redbird Arena. The women entertain Illinois-Springfield on Nov. 2, while men face Quincy on Nov. 10. Both start at 7:05 p.m.