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October 12, 2012
A little after 10:30 p.m. Friday night, Jacob Lawson sat in a chair rubbing his swollen right wrist.
A short time earlier, the Boilermaker sophomore forward banged it violently on the rim, while taking a victory lap of sorts after winning the slam dunk competition at Purdue's Tip-Off Before The Kickoff event, its version of Midnight Madness.
Lawson won the event by getting a running start, then taking off from just inside the foul line for an emphatic one-handed dunk, beating out fellow finalists Anthony Johnson and Neal Beshears.
It should surprise no one Lawson won the event. He's Purdue's most athletic player and most explosive leaper.
"I knew I was going to have some competition," Lawson said. "I know A.J. can jump, and I knew Neal was going to come out with something because he was smiling about something in the locker room.
"I know people were saying, 'Jacob's going to win this,' because they've seen me do some pretty crazy stuff in practice, but I just came out there and tried to be humble and whatever they had, I tried to match."
Beshears earned his spot in the finals with a 360-degree two-handed slam in the semifinals; Johnson would have challenged Lawson had he been able to put down one of his tries bringing the ball between his legs before trying to wind-mill it home.
"I think I would have gotten him if I could have finished," Johnson said. "I think it would have given me a 50. Unfortunately it didn't go in and I'm happy for (Lawson)."
This entire evening was more about entertainment than competition.
Maybe not so much for Johnson, though, who lamented his missed opportunity in the dunk contest.
"I'm real competitive," he said. "I could be playing H-O-R-S-E with a 6-year-old and I still want to win."
The dunk competition concluded the evening, Purdue's first Midnight Madness-type event since 2008.
Prior to the dunk contest - both teams held their own, with Sam Ostarello throwing down to win the women's portion - the men's and women's teams were introduced separately, under the theme "Boilers Unite," a play on the movie "The Avengers."
Team members from both sides joined fan participants to break into teams for a skills competition, with women's freshman Hayden Hamby making the halfcourt shot needed to win it for the team she joined D.J. Byrd and Paint Crew member Jeremy Patterson on.
It started with a football pep rally, before the basketball portion of the schedule started with a musical performance by senior D.J. Byrd.
Byrd, in costume, was introduced under the made-up name Dirk Hunter, leading to some groans from crowd members who'd obviously never heard of Dirk Hunter. As people started to figure it out before Byrd revealed himself, the crowd responded more favorably. Byrd was playing his own acoustic guitar.
Byrd said he's performed for audiences before, "but not that many people."
"So I was a little nervous," he said. "But I got more comfortable. Technical difficulties kind of stopped me from playing a little bit (more). It was fun."
Purdue hosted a significant group of recruiting visitors Friday night, including 2013 commitments Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman. They're making they're official visits this weekend.
Among unofficial visitors were Class of 2015 guards Jordan Ash, Hyron Edwards and Jalen Coleman, who each already have Purdue offers, as well as Illinois' Glynn Watson, who tweeted that he was offered by Matt Painter shortly after the event's conclusion.
Class of 2016 Boilermaker target Eron Gordon was among those also in attendance.
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