Jarvis Jones has been holding out. Who knew the 6-foot-2 senior guard could jump like that.
Jones stole the show Thursday night at the Minidome, as East Tennessee State held its annual basketball Bluenanza, giving the men’s and women’s teams an early-season introduction to their fans.
The Memphis native won the dunk contest, decisively beating teammates Lester Wilson and John Walton in the finals. In fact, Jones’ dunks were so impressive, the three-judge panel, which included ETSU President Brian Noland, Chamber of Commerce President Gary Mabrey and Bucs’ all-time leading scorer Tim Smith, wasn’t really necessary.
It was a surprising performance considering Jones spends much of his playing time roaming around the 3-point line waiting to strike on long-range shots.
“I’ve always been able to jump,” Jones said. “But it kind of scared me to start back dunking.”
Jones’ fear of dunking is well founded. During his senior year in high school, he suffered a torn ACL in a dunk attempt.
“I was going up to dunk and somebody ran past and I lost my balance,” he said. “I’ve been scared to dunk since then. But this felt good. I haven’t really tried to dunk since high school.”
ETSU coach Murry Bartow wasn’t surprised.
“I see him in practice and I think he might have the best vertical on the team,” Bartow said. “That didn’t shock me.”
While Jones was starring above the rim, Brianna Bogard of the women’s team won the 3-point contest, beating men’s team freshman Mario Stramaglia in the final.
“That was my first 3-point contest and it was pretty exciting,” said Bogard, a sophomore. “I was a little nervous.”
In between, both teams held 10-minute scrimmages, in which almost no defense was played. But that didn’t even bother either of the coaches. This was a night to give an enthusiastic crowd of 1,100 a brief glimpse of what the coming season holds.
“It was a fun night and the guys like it,” Bartow said. “They like hamming it up and having some fun. We’ve been practicing at 6:30 in the morning a lot. I think they just enjoyed being in front of a crowd.”
Jones played his more traditional role in the scrimmage, making three shots from 3-point range and finishing with 11 points. Marcus Dubose had 12 points and Wilson, a red-shirt freshman, drove the lane and threw down an unexpected dunk.
But it was junior-college transfer Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard who whetted the fans’ appetites the most. He had 12 points and three rebounds and looked polished, physical and ready to go.
“He’s a good player, a really good player,” Bartow said. “He’s smart. He can play inside or outside and he’s probably the best defender on our team. He was a middle linebacker in high school.”
The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder has been around since the summer so he was anxious to show the fans what he could do.
“I try to give my all when I’m on the court,” Gadsden-Gilliard said.” I try to bring a little bit of versatility offensively and defensively.
“I like this team. Everybody gets along. We’ve got great chemistry. If we’re not on the court, then we’re hanging together or texting or calling. You need that kind of chemistry when you’re trying to win a championship.”
In the women’s team’s scrimmage, Bogard led the way with seven points. Senior center Tosha Austin had six rebounds.
“We have been practicing for a couple of weeks now and I like where we are at this point,” women’s coach Karen Kemp said. “We still have a lot of work to do. But they’re working hard and have a good attitude.”
Bogard, for one, wasn’t shy about her thoughts on the coming season.
“I expect some good things,” she said. “We’re definitely gonna be way better than last year. We’re more competitive and we’re gonna win more games.”