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Sept. 28, 2013

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PITTSBURGH--Pitt opened its 2013-14 basketball season with a "Morning Madness" event Saturday at Stage AE prior to the Pitt-Virginia Homecoming football game. A capacity crowd of 4,000 attended the free admission event which featured an appearance by Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon who dressed and performed the role of Duck Dynasty TV show character Uncle Si, a Pitt basketball version of "Family Feud" and a slam dunk contest.

Stage AE transformed its black wooden stage into a mini basketball floor, complete with white floor lines, a Pitt logo and baskets on each end. The Oakland Zoo and fans of all sorts arrived hours before the event with a long line spanning three blocks. When the event began at 10:30 a.m., fans had packed the facility with majority of the Oakland Zoo surrounding the stage.

Pittsburgh Pirates videoboard announcer Joe Klimchak served as emcee for the event. The show began with Pitt player introductions. When Klimchak announced the number, name and major, each of the 14 Pitt players emerged individually from the dark, smoke-filled stage with their personalities on full display. Several danced to the music of choice and others walked the extended stage and hi-fived the adoring crowd. Pitt senior Lamar Patterson was the final player announced as he signed a basketball and heaved it into the crowd.

Finally, to the crowd's surprise, Dixon emerged from the smoke-filled back stage driving a camouflaged golf cart and dressed as the popular TV show Duck Dynasty character Uncle Si. Dixon sported a fake white beard and wig complete with glasses, hat and camouflaged jacket. After Dixon parked and exited his vehicle, he waved to the crowd, grabbed a basketball and dribbled in for a layup in full costume.

Klimchak proceeded to interview "Uncle Si". Dixon answered the questions and played the role perfectly, even imitating Uncle Si's accent when answering the questions. It was Dixon's second surprise appearance at a Midnight or Morning Madness event as last year, he dressed as the Jackie Moon character in the movie Semi-Pro, which was played by Will Farrell. As a youngster growing up in North Hollywood, Calif., Dixon appeared and performed in a variety of commercials. He is a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Klimchak then interviewed both of Pitt's senior captains Patterson and Talib Zanna. Patterson, a fifth-year senior who has already earned a degree, drew laughs when he admitted that he had been at Pitt for a "long time."

Next up was Pitt Basketball's version of the game show "Family Feud." Along with members of the Oakland Zoo, Pitt players Zanna, James Robinson and Durand Johnson faced off against Patterson, Michael Young and Cameron Wright. Questions posed to the two "families" included what musical artist is on each Pitt players' Ipod, what is the most popular TV show watched by team members and which home opponent at the Petersen Events Center are the players most looking forward to. When neither team could answer the most popular answer to the TV show question, Dixon stepped in and emphatically answered, "Duck Dynasty!"

The event concluded with a slam dunk contest. Three Panthers--junior Aron Nwankwo, redshirt freshman Chris Jones and true freshman Josh Newkirk--competed. Each player had three dunks which were voted upon by three judges including the Oakland Zoo and former Pitt players Charles Smith and Gilbert Brown. Nwankwo emerged as the champion as he threw down several difficult and challenging dunks. It was the second slam dunk contest victory for Nwankwo, who also won the event in 2011. Newkirk's athleticism was also on display.

The Panthers began their NCAA mandated practices yesterday.



Basketball Hosts MORNING MADNESS at Stage AE

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