The 2013 Lobo Howl -- Friday Night -- The Pit
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was quite a show. Really, it was an amazing show – a collegiate basketball show that probably can be duplicated in only a few arenas on this planet.
The Lobo Howl Friday night in The Pit was crazy for a lot of reasons. In part, because the Lobos were there, and ESPNU was there, and Coach Craig Neal was a showstopper riding down the ramp on his big Harley as The Pit went nuts.
But the real showstopper was The Pit. It was amazing, rowdy, special, unique -- and 10,158 strong.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Neal. “But I’ve always said all along that the great thing about playing here, about coaching here, is our fans and the facility we play in. Anytime you have 10,000 people show up for a practice or a layup line or a 3-point shootout, it’s a pretty good day.
“They were real excited. They were really into it.”
Said Lobo women’s coach Yvonne Sanchez: “Is there any question who has the best basketball fans in the nation? I never cease to be amazing by our fans and the support they give Lobo basketball."
The fans were amazing Friday night. It was difficult to find an empty seat on the East side of The Pit as 10,158 showed up for the 2013 Lobo Howl to meet and greet Sanchez’s and Neal’s Lobos.
To put this number into perspective, go back a season to October of 2012 when 4,622 came to The Lobo Howl to welcome in the Lobos.
So, what caused the huge jump in attendance? Maybe it was to show off for the ESPNU cameras. Maybe it was Neal’s Lobos cracking the Top 20. Maybe it was to welcome in Neal, who has a great chance to be one of the more popular Lobo coaches ever.
Neal comes across as an every-day guy. Heck, he showed up on a Harley wearing jeans, boot, a leather jacket, with his silvery hair flowing over his ears. Norm Ellenberger would have been proud.
The Lobo Howl was a neat show. The lights went low for both teams and strobe lights danced around The Pit as Sanchez and Neal introduced their 2013-14 Lobos. The players had signed autographs prior to introductions and drills.
Both Sanchez’s and Neal’s Lobo ran through some drills and the Lobo men did a full-court, full-speed, three-on-two drill that followed a dunk and a 3-point shooting contest. Neal’s son, Cullen Neal, won the long-ball contest. A year ago, Steve Alford’s son, Kory, won the 3-point contest. Those Alfords are now over at UCLA – ranked below the No. 20 Lobos.
Neal returns four starters to the team projected to win the Mountain West regular-season title: Hugh Greenwood, Kendall Williams, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. UNM also returns Chris Perez, Cleveland Thomas and Nick Banyard.
One key area for Coach Neal in 2013-14 is obvious: Figure out who is going to fill in the hole left by Tony Snell’s exit to the NBA and find some production off the bench.
Sanchez has a few more holes to fill but returns Alexa Chavez, Bryce Owens, Khadijah Shumpert, Antiesha Brown, Sara Halasz, Brea Mitchell, Maddie Muraida and Deeva Vaughn. Sanchez adds Brooke Allemand, Josie Greenwood, Alex Lapeyrolerie, Marissa Perry, Kianna Keller and Ebony Walker.
Neal’s entrance was wildly welcomed. He roared down The Pit’s ramp and followed some rubber mats near center court. There, he welcomed the huge crowd and encouraged them to attend the Lobo football game Saturday night vs. Utah State.
“We’re all in this together,” Neal told The Pit mob.
Neal said he has been wanting to ride his Harley down into The Pit for “about six years and never could get ‘em to let me do it. I guess since I’m the boss now, they let me do it. It was just something we wanted to do different.”
Neal said The Lobo Howl is “to show the fans appreciation and try to get everyone psyched up for the start of the season and I think we accomplished it.”
He also said he likes to use the crowd to help acclimate his first-year Lobos to the special environment of The Pit.
“I wanted to get as many people in there as I can because I wanted to see how they were going to react,” said Neal. “It’s one of those things you have to get used to, playing in front of those people and that crowd. It’s a different deal.”
And 10,158 came to watch. For a lot of teams, that’s a dozen games.
Slam Dunk Competition
|Pl.||Player||Dunk 1||Dunk2||1st Round Total||Finals Dunk|
Celebrity Judges: Paul Krebs, Tim Cass, Daniel Faris, Emmanuel Negedu
|Pl.||Player||First Round||Final Round|
|1.||Cullen Neal||11||19 (1-4*-5*-3-6*)|
|2.||Hugh Greenwood||7 (beat Kirk 8-5 to advance to final round||15 (2-4*-3*-3*-3)|
|3.||Arthur Edwards||10||11 (2*-2-2-2-3)|
First Round was three racks of five balls, with 5th ball of rack worth 2 points (40 seconds)
Final Round was five racks of five balls, with 5th ball of rack worth 2 points (60 seconds)