The McKendree University men’s basketball preseason got off to a flying start late Saturday and into the wee hours of Sunday.
At the team’s Midnight Madness event, Bearcats senior Justin Blanks dazzled a crowd of about 200 during the slam-dunk contest.
Blanks, a 6-foot-4 guard/forward from Akron, Ohio, leaped in the lane over teammates Carrington Bass and Noah Brandon and finished a one-handed jam.
Blanks averaged 16.5 points and made 58 3-pointers last season. He is the top returning scorer for the Bearcats, who will play host to Principia College in their season opener at 8 p.m. on Nov. 11.
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McKendree coach Harry Statham, 80, is in his 52nd season and owns 1,110 victories, more than any other coach at a four-year school.
The Bearcats were 9-17 overall and 3-15 in the Great Lake Valley Conference last season. In addition to Blanks, they return 6-3 junior guard Nate Michael and 6-10 sophomore center Nolan Gerling, a graduate of Mater Dei High School in Breese.
Michael, the son of former University of Illinois star and Carlyle High graduate Tom Michael, averaged 13.7 points and made 44 3-pointers last season. Gerling averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 rebounds.
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm