Auburn fans gathered at Toomer’s Corner on Thursday night — this time without the toilet paper.
On top of the historic street corner was a half-sized basketball court for the first-ever “Tip-Off at Toomer’s,” a celebration to welcome the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball season.
Students lined up hours in advance in anticipation of the festivities — and to get their hands on a free t-shirt commemorating the event. The first 300 students were granted admission to the makeshift “Jungle,” the name given to the student section at Auburn Arena.
While those students piled in directly behind the goal post, hordes of the Auburn faithful covered the corner to get a sight of the new-look teams.
“I can’t believe the turnout,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “It’s so much fun to celebrate with our friends, families and fans.”
At 6 p.m. Andy Burcham and Brad Law hosted a special episode of “Tiger Talk” to kick things off. Accompanying them throughout was a rotating cast of Auburn coaches that included head football coach Gus Malzahn, Pearl and head woman’s basketball coach Terri Flournoy.
An hour later, Burcham, who emceed the event, introduced each player of both teams signaling the start of the showcase.
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First up, was a team 3-point shooting contest where two men's players and one women’s player joined up to make as many 3s as they could in a minute. Senior center Austin Wiley provided a few surprises as he showed some prowess from beyond the arc, propelling his triplet to a second-place finish. In the end, the team comprised of Samir Doughty, Robyn Benton and Babatunde Akingbola reigned supreme.
Following the 3-point contest was the women’s skills challenge and the men’s three-on-three tournament. Freshman guard Maliya Perry was the winner of the skills exhibition. The three-on-three tournament, however, had no winner. The top two teams remained deadlocked as time expired, resulting in a tie.
The fans didn’t seem to mind, cheering every step of the way and dancing to the music blaring over the loudspeakers. Nothing could dampen their excitement for the biggest event of the night — the dunk contest.
Anfernee Mclemore, J’von Mccormick, Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Preston Cook and surprise dunker Lior Berman all tried their hand at defying gravity and slamming the ball through the hoop. In the end, no one shined brighter than the freshman Okoro, Auburn’s highest-rated recruit.
“Every time I came on an unofficial visit, the fans just showed me love every time. That’s why I committed here,” Okoro said. “I thought about only dunking in a gym. Just in this atmosphere? I never thought I’d be here.”
Okoro managed to throw down a double-pump jam from the baseline for his first dunk. What followed up was the lone perfect score of the night.
The forward out of Powder Springs, Georgia, exploded off the ground, caught a lob off the side of the backboard and finished with a windmill.
The end of the dunk contest marked the end of the night, leaving fans to look forward to the start of both teams season in the coming weeks.
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