UA senior Jamelle Horne, left, goes for a layup against Brendon Lavender in the Red-Blue Game at McKale Center. MAMTA POPAT / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Jackie Weinstein and Rosette Abud were waiting for Sunday's Red-Blue Game to start when Brendon Lavender, all 6 feet 4 inches of him, approached.

He said he was going to do a round-off cartwheel and backflip with no hands, and would they like to join him?

"It's rare," said Abud, who, like Weinstein, is a senior UA cheerleader. "Basketball players don't flip."

Yet that's exactly what Lavender did later in the slam dunk contest, the highlight of an otherwise-drab basketball practice sprinkled with advertising breaks and video displays.

The junior wing stood at midcourt with a cheerleader on each side.

The three, in unison, did cartwheels and then a backflip - "no hands," Weinstein said - before Lavender caught a pass and dunked it.

The crowd erupted.

He took a bow at midcourt.

"(Saturday) night I was thinking of creative stuff, what I could do to get the crowd on my side," the Phoenix-area native said. "I don't think anyone's ever pulled some cheerleaders on the floor with them and did a backflip.

"I'm 6-4. They don't think I can do that type of stuff."

Lavender hadn't done a flip in two or three years, and that was on a trampoline.

He claimed, somewhat unconvincingly, that he didn't know the proper terminology for the gymnastic move. He called it a "round-off-back-whatever."

No one else on the team can do it, Lavender said. As if on cue, MoMo Jones, the boastful Harlemite, estimated, like Jon Lovitz's pathological liar character, he could, too.

"He has a split personality, Lav," UA coach Sean Miller said. "He goes weeks upon end not talking, and he becomes a different person there in that dunk contest.

"When you have that many people in the building for Red-Blue, they deserve a little entertainment.

"I'm glad he did it. I'm waiting for him to dunk a ball in the game now."

A crowd of 10,657 gathered at McKale Center, hours after a sold-out football game, to get their first glimpse at Miller's second edition of the Wildcats.

"A lot of intrasquad scrimmages, people can get in for free," Miller said.

Not in Tucson.

What fans found wasn't a ball of laughs - drills and scrimmages rarely are - but that's beside the point.

They were there.

"They're also not watching a team off a Final Four run or a team that's braced to do that this year," Miller said. "They're really supporting our program in a time of growth."

Go back and read that paragraph again.

Around here, even a coach coming off a year without a postseason berth has to temper any illusions - or delusions - of a 2011 Final Four appearance.

Compared to last season, however, the goal seems a lot closer.

Fans gawked at what seemed like an entirely new roster last year, trying to memorize which player was which, why Lamont Jones had a funny nickname and how to pronounce "Natyazhko."

In Year 2, there were few Red-Blue revelations, though Miller and forward Derrick Williams praised newcomers Jesse Perry, Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes.

"I think we have a lot to live up to," Williams said. "I think we're going to be real good this year."

So what if Sunday didn't have a send-your-friend-a-text highlight? Or even, like a generation ago, a roster of future NBA locks?

Or if the best moment, by far, came from a junior who averaged 3.2 points per game last season?

Miller warned his players against career-threatening stunts, but approved of the dunk, even if he didn't talk to Lavender after the bow.

"He was just shocked, I think," Lavender said.

The player himself said he was never uncertain - maybe a good metaphor for the start of Miller's second season.

"If I was going to be worried," he said, "I was going to fall."



1. The Arizona Wildcats volleyball team travels to Tempe on Friday for a second match against the rival Sun Devils. The UA won 3-0 at McKale Center on Oct. 1. The Wildcats need another win; they had lost three straight before defeating Washington State on Saturday.


2. Has a Southern Arizona native ever played such a prominent role on a great baseball team? Canyon del Oro High School graduate Ian Kinsler, who won the 2000 state title with the Dorados, leads his Texas Rangers into the World Series against San Francisco.


3. After Matt Scott's performance Saturday against Washington, the Wildcats' quarterback situation seems more certain. Still, we're curious to see what coach Mike Stoops says today when updating the status of Nick Foles' dislocated kneecap. Could he play against the Bruins?


4. ESPN's flagship show returns to the Pac-10 on Saturday when Lee Corso and the gang park at USC's campus for the Trojans' game against the No. 1 Oregon Ducks. Going to see the Wildcats game in the Rose Bowl? Wake up early and check it out.


5. Ready to watch, and not hear from, LeBron James? Or see how former Arizona Wildcats guard Jerryd Bayless fits in with the New Orleans Hornets after Saturday's trade for a draft pick? The NBA starts this week.

Contact Patrick Finley at 573-4145, or follow him on Twitter at