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Basketball: Flannigan shines at UNT tipoff event

Profile image for By Brett Vito
By Brett Vito

Armani Flannigan practiced the dunks he planned to roll out during North Texas’ season-opening Basketball Madness event on Thursday night over the last week.

That work got him to the finals of the night’s dunk contest.

From there, the junior forward turned to his improvisational skills and capped a big night for the UNT men’s and women’s teams with a memorable slam. Flannigan missed his first attempt at a dunk in the finals, ran to the sideline, grabbed Vertrail Vaughns, positioned him under the basket and jumped over him for the jam.

The judges, including Mavericks forward Jae Crowder, quickly declared Flannigan the winner. The former Central Wyoming State standout also scored 12 points in the exhibition game and came away the star of the event that drew a crowd of 2,300.

“I feel great about the way I played,” Flannigan said. “I am trying to get into the groove of things and get used to playing with my new teammates.”

The men’s and women’s teams played exhibition games with running clocks.

The White team won the women’s game 28-20 behind nine points from Alexis Hyder and seven from BreAnna Dawkins.

Flannigan and Chris Jones, who led all scorers in the men’s exhibition with 14 points, led the Green team to a 38-22 win.

“We just wanted to get out in front of the crowd with our returning guys and our new guys,” UNT men’s coach Tony Benford said. “Some of the new guys were nervous.”

Two of those newcomers didn’t have a chance to play, including forward Kelvin Gaines. The Cincinnati transfer has a stress fracture in his foot. UNT has decided to have Gaines undergo surgery that will keep him out four to six weeks.

Benford said UNT hopes to have Gaines back by the end of November or early December.

Forward Colin Voss also missed the event. The Northern Oklahoma College transfer took a knee to his thigh in practice and was on crutches, although the injury is not serious and should not keep him out for an extended period.

Despite having two key newcomers out, Benford and his players were pleased with the way they played.

“We were able to put on a show with the incoming class and the guys who have already been here,” UNT senior guard Brandan Walton said. “We played pretty well in front of the home crowd. We definitely feel good about where we are at.”

UNT women’s coach Mike Petersen also has been pleased with his team’s progress. Petersen expects to have a deeper team and saw several players contribute in the exhibition game, including freshman point guard Candice Adams and junior guard Janis Peterson. Each scored five points. Redshirt freshman Eboniey Jeter scored six points.

“It was fun for me to sit and watch,” Petersen said. “We have a lot of people who can score and a lot of different ways we can play.”

UNT’s coaches and players were particularly pleased with number of people who filled the seats. Benford credited UNT’s promotions department for the turnout, which Petersen described as phenomenal for a tipoff event.

Flannigan put on a show and turned out to be the star of the night, which was no surprise for Walton and Benford, who both said the transfer could be in for a big season.

“Flannigan is an energy guy and can score,” Benford said. “He is going to surprise people.”

Briefly …

The team of Walton and Laura McCoy won the 3-point shootout. Three teams of two players — one each from the men’s and women’s teams — competed against each other. Walton and McCoy combined for 11 3s. … UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal won the celebrity free throw contest.