Toppers planning big things for Hysteria; Kerusch pleased with pickup games

Zach Greenwell

WKU basketball officially kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday with Hilltopper Hysteria in Diddle Arena, and although the night is supposed to be about fun and games, the Toppers are ready to compete.

Senior forward Juan Pattillo, the reigning dunk contest winner, said he’s prepared to defend his crown against the likes of senior forward Sergio Kerusch and freshman guard Brandon Peters.

Kerusch won the contest two years ago, but Pattillo, a transfer from Oklahoma, introduced himself to WKU fans with a runaway win last year.

Pattillo said the event is all for the fans, but as long as he’s dunking, he’s still going to talk some trash.

“Serge has no chance in the dunk contest,” Pattillo said. “He had no chance last year, so a whole year later, I don’t think he has any more of a chance.”

Had their been an award last season for best introduction, Kerusch would have likely won with no contest. The senior went with a Michael Jackson theme, but he said he’s been stressing over the past few weeks trying to figure out what can top that.

“I’m thinking of fireworks, explosions and maybe some lightning coming down,” Kerusch said, laughing. “Should I come down from the rafters? I don’t know. I would love to give the fans of Western basketball something they’ve never seen before. We do this for them, and we protect Diddle for them.”

Kerusch announced Wednesday that his theme this year will be “Transformers,” although he almost went in a completely different direction.

“I was going to do the Justin Bieber, but I don’t think you’re ready for that,” he said. “I couldn’t find the hairpiece, but I had the moves down. I’ll just save that one.”

Head Coach Ken McDonald selected the 6-foot-1-inch Peters as his dark horse to win the dunk contest, and Pattillo said he had to admit that Peters could give him a run for his money.

“Brandon Peters has something under his sleeve,” Pattillo said. “I don’t tip my hat to too many people, but little dude has got some skills. It’s going to be a good show, no question. He’s going to give me a run for my money because a shorter basketball player is going to have his dunks look a lot more amazing.

“But I’m not too worried. You know me — it’s going to come easy.”

Kerusch pleased with intensity in pickup games

Kerusch said he walked by the court in Diddle the other day, only to find sophomore center Teeng Akol (6-foot-11) playing one-on-one with junior guard Ken Brown (5-foot-11).

Kerusch said it was a funny sight, but by the way the two were competing, you never would have known there was a one-foot height difference.

“Ken is like Mighty Mouse, and you’ve got Teeng over here, and there’s no cartoon character that tall,” Kerusch said. “It was neat to see Ken just trying to back down Teeng, even though Teeng’s hands touch the goal when he stretches them up. Playing a guy that big is a test of heart and shows how much you want to get better.”

The competition level’s been that way all summer, Kerusch said.

“When we all play pickup, it’s not a pickup game,” he said. “It’s as intense as a practice would be. The level of competition is so high right now. It’s not even like a real game situation. It’s like an NCAA Tournament game situation.”

The Toppers have seven newcomers this year, but Kerusch said the team has already built a good chemistry. Part of that is having personalities that mesh, he said, and part of it is that all of the players realize they can do something special.

“We have the team to make magic happen this year,” he said. “We have one of the most talented teams I’ve been a part of. This year I just see us making it far and making some noise.”