The defending champion had been looking forward to this year's contest since claiming his title last year.
As a newcomer last year, he quickly made a name for himself at the season-opening 'Hilltopper Hysteria.' He had performed a dunk that virtually no one saw coming, taking a pass from teammate Anthony Sally off a bounce and finishing the slam dunk.
But this time, it was another newcomer who outdid junior guard Sergio Kerusch.
Senior guard Juan Pattillo, who's sitting out this season after transferring from Oklahoma, had the winning dunk in the final round, a between the legs dunk that drew the biggest ovation from the two-thirds full Diddle Arena crowd.
"Serg is my man, he put a lot of hard work into it," Pattillo said. "I told him I wasn't gonna practice. I thought about kinda sitting it out this year, because I knew I wasn't gonna play this year regardless. But then, if I sat it out it wouldn't have been a show. I just decided to go ahead and do a couple of dunks and just win the crown. I'm gonna hold on to it while I'm here. When I leave, I'll pass it down to someone else."
Kerusch had a Michael Jackson theme the entire night, coming out to "Thriller" while wearing a hat with a Jackson curl wig underneath and a white glove during player introductions. He even moon-walked at center court after doing the song's dance.
He wore the glove for his first two dunks, the first of which was to "Smooth Criminal," with Kerusch taking the bounce pass from freshman teammate Jamal Crook for the dunk. For dunk two, to "Billy Jean," Crook went between the legs with the ball, tossing it off the backboard to Kerusch who threw home a two-handed dunk.
Before the third dunk, Kerusch threw off his glove as his dunk was being set up. From the right baseline, Crook shot the ball off a 'bounce back' prop, the ball going off the backboard. Kerusch caught the ball off the second ricochet for the one-handed dunk.
"I've been a Michael Jackson fan since I was little," Kerusch said. "My mom came and she first taught me to moonwalk when I was six. It's kinda like, mom, this is a tribute to you and all the fans because of what happened recently with Michael. I just wanted to do my little part to hopefully go down as the 'king of dunk' instead of 'king of pop.'"
The dunk contest capped an over 90-minute official beginning to the 2009-10 season that followed WKU volleyball's 3-0 win over Denver.
The 'Hysteria' began with player introductions for both the Toppers and Lady Toppers. The most notable were Crook's intro to 'My Dougie' (dance included) and senior guard A.J. Slaughter coming out to Jay-Z's 'Run This Town,' in which he climbed press row to hype up the crowd.
The Lady Toppers scrimmaged first, for eight minutes. The Black team defeated the Red team 9-8, as sophomore forward Teranie Thomas had a game-high four points for the black.
A good answer was given as to how fast-paced the Toppers might be this season as the Red team defeated the White team 24-22 in an eight-minute scrimmage. True to his insatiable ability in the clutch, Slaughter dribbled the ball in the left corner as the last seconds ticked off towards the wing. Seconds before the final buzzer, Slaughter calmly squared himself and knocked down the game-winning three-pointer.
"I think back to a year ago and the turnout we had and different coaching staff and a lot of new things going on," coach Ken McDonald said. "It's exciting. This had to be three times the amount of people that came last year. This is just the beginning, it was a fun night. We said that from the beginning that this was gonna be a fun evening for the guys. We did, we had a lot of fun. Tomorrow kick it off and really get after what we're here for."
Tomorrow morning, the Toppers officially begin practice, with a 9 AM start. But McDonald and the Toppers are ready to begin defending their two-time Sun Belt Championship.
"I'm excited for the guys, because you go through the summer, you have a good summer, you have a good fall, put a lot of work in and just around the corner we're gonna be playing some games," McDonald said. "It gives them a chance to do something different. There's a lot of new faces that are gonna be going through practice for the first time. A lot of teaching going on."
Kerusch now has a year to construct his next dunk. But he has some competition in Pattillo, whom he said is "half kangaroo."
"Honestly, I defended (the slam dunk title) the best I could," Kerusch said. "You've got newcomers coming in and it was just for the fans. I was gonna put on a show, came out with the Michael Jackson. I already proved I could catch it from the rafters. I just wanted to put on a show and let everybody have fun. It was just Juan's time to shine."
Check back tomorrow for photos and video from 'Hilltopper Hysteria!'
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