There was an amused round of applause at Target Center on Thursday night, when the video board showed a young boy holding up a sign that read, “Where’s Zion?”
But if the 2019 Final Four was fighting the specter of reduced star power, after Duke’s Elite Eight loss to Michigan State meant star freshman Zion Williamson wouldn’t be playing in Minneapolis, a round of inventive dunk artists did their best to deliver some fireworks.
With 8,597 fans in the lower bowl at Target Center, players such as Tulsa’s DaQuan Jeffries, Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis and Southeast Louisiana State’s Marlain Veal engaged one another in college basketball’s annual round of one-upsmanship in the 31st annual College Slam Dunk and Three-Point Championships on Thursday night.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook joined Timberwolves Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Robert Covington as celebrity judges.
Jeffries averaged 45.4 points in his three rounds, edging Davis for the title. Jeffries’ final dunk of the night — in which he caught a lob off the side of the backboard from Missouri State’s Josh Webster before driving a windmill dunk home — gave Jeffries his fourth win in as many dunk contests during his career.
“Getting ready, I didn’t practice any of those dunks,” he said. “I went to YouTube, and watched the 2000 NBA dunk contest; Vince Carter, I watched all his dunks and told myself I would use those. The first two, I knew I would do those, but the last two just came to my head.”
On his first dunk of the night, the 5-9 Veal used two players to slingshot him from a seated start behind Central Florida’s BJ Taylor before he drove home his bug-on-the-windshield dunk.
The biggest roars of the three-point competition were reserved for Central Michigan’s Presley Hudson, who hit 10 straight threes at one point in the final round to defeat Belmont’s Darby Maggard to win the women’s competition.
Hudson then drilled 11 straight threes to sail past men’s champion Clayton Custer 24-15. She’d posted the necessary points to beat the Loyola (Chicago) senior by the time she reached the fourth of five carts.
Hudson turned her back to her final shot of the night in celebration, and it didn’t matter that the ball rattled out of the cylinder as her fellow competitors mobbed her; she’d hit her first four threes on the final cart. She hit 77 of the 100 three-pointers she attempted in a mesmerizing performance.