Saying a Shootout is “slept on” seems odd, but the 2007 Great Alaska Shootout is slept on.
Mention the Shootout around any hoops fan born before 1990, then buckle up. You’re about to get broken off with memories about how old Preston Shumpert looked in college and what a thrill it was to see Cincinnati stun Duke in ’98.
What you won’t be presented with is an analytical breakdown of why the 2007 installment of the Shootout is grossly underappreciated — unless you’re talking to me.
In retrospect, the ‘07 Shootout was a tweener. We were in a transitional phase from bringing up juggernauts to bringing up lesser-known — but still exciting — schools. There were no Duke or North Carolina programs in the field. Instead, there was Gonzaga University, based out of Spokane, Washington and Butler University, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana.
The lack of marquee names has haunted the ’07 session for years now. There also wasn’t a single moment or game that defined the tournament. But the product as a whole delivered.
I’m not suggesting we forget the year Iowa State forward Marcus Fizer lit this city on fire. I just think the Fizer diehards need to get over it and let us talk about the ’07 Shootout before the memories fade away, like Fizer’s game.
Enough Fizer bashing (no such thing). It’s time to run through the reasons this particular Shootout deserves more love.
For starters: Deron Washington, the Virginia Tech wing who carved out a solid collegiate career by doing spectacular things. He was there, leaping around and trying crazy stuff that made all the high school coaches in the building cringe.
How about that Michigan team? Manny Harris as a freshman; DeShawn Sims as a decent power forward; Ekpe Udoh in what appeared to be his first time ever playing the sport.
Can’t leave out Courtney Lee. The Western Kentucky shooting guard filled it up all weekend and finished with the most points in the tournament. We also got a good look at the now legendary Ty Rogers. He’s the guy who hit a long three to upset Drake in that year’s NCAAs, but you already knew that.
Don’t forget Bobby Knight was in town. I actually locked eyes with him once while he was walking onto the floor. It was like staring into the eyes of one of those animatronic characters at Disneyland, whatever that means.
Gonzaga. All 120 pounds of Austin Daye; superstar Matt Bouldin; slam-dunk artist Micah Downs; the ferocious Jeremy Pargo; enforcer David Pendergraft. Everything about the Zags was interesting that year
Lastly, 2007 was the start of the Brad Stevens era at Butler. We witnessed the prodigy coach his first tournament as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Everybody in the arena knew Stevens would go on to lead Butler to multiple championship games after watching him game plan his way through the ’07 Shootout.
The Butler section doesn’t end there — not when we’re talking about a team with A.J. Graves. My friends and I went to the Butler games with a sign that read, “A.J. Graves Is The White Jordan.” It was funny because it was true.
On a pound-for-pound scale, I think the ’07 Shootout can hang with those earlier installments we marvel about every November.
It’s unrealistic to hold those stacked lineups from years back as the standard in 2012. The game has changed. We saw the shift happening in 2007, yet the stories were there and the basketball was fun.
The shift has become more drastic in the last couple years. But again: The stories are still there and the basketball is still fun.