McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 27, 2014

Former Bulldog wins college dunk contest

By Matt Goisman
Sports Writer

McALESTER — Growing up in Savanna, Tyler Inman spent many an afternoon watching dunk contests on T.V. and on YouTube online. He especially loved watching highlights of the 1988 NBA contest between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins and then-Cincinnati player James White at the 2006 NCAA contest.

Watching all those highlights paid off Saturday, when Inman, a senior at Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, performed four perfect dunks and won the inaugural National Association of Basketball Coaches-National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Men’s Basketball Dunk Contest in Kansas City

“They really did it right at the dunk contest,” Inman said Wednesday. “They promoted it well, and the format was great. ... I hope they keep doing it, because it’s a really good way to showcase the NAIA’s talent”

Inman said the contest featured four NAIA athletes, each of who got two minutes to successfully perform two dunks. Each dunk would be scored up to 50 points, and the top two would advance to the finals, where they’d get two more dunks.

“I have a bunch of different dunks that I can do, but I had no idea what I was going to do when I was sitting in the chair (waiting),” Inman said.

Having competed in just two slam dunk contests before — and neither as big as the NAIA’s — Inman said he felt nervous before the competition. To help calm his nerves, he began the contest with his favorite dunk.

The dunk consisted of standing just to the right of the top of the 3-point arch, lobbing the ball so it bounced high in the air, running towards it and leaping after crossing the foul line, catching the ball with his right hand, transferring it to his left and finishing with an overhead slam.

“That’s a James White dunk, but he doesn’t do it off a lob,” Inman said.

“Once I got it down on the first try, it really just smoothed me out, and I didn’t feel nervous after that.”

Inman received a perfect 50 for that dunk, which he got on the first try. He did so again with his second preliminary-round dunk, in which he again started behind the arch but closer to the right sideline, bounced the ball, jumped, caught it with his left, transferred it between his legs to his right, then slammed it as his momentum carried him underneath the basket.

Inman said he’d been talking with a friend in California until about 3 a.m. the previous night because Inman was too nervous to sleep, and the friend recommended that second dunk.

Those two dunks got Inman into the finals, where he faced Mitchell Wiggins, Jr., from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. Inman’s first dunk in the finals didn’t feature a bounce, as he jumped with the ball in his left hand, rotated it counter-clockwise behind his back, transferred it to his right hand and slammed it on the first try.

“That was the third or fourth time I’ve ever gotten that one,” Inman said.

“I kind of went with it because I had adrenaline and I felt the crowd and stuff like that. It really pumped me up to try it.”

Inman said Wiggins had exhausted himself by the second dunk in the finals, so “I didn’t really have pressure on me at that point.” But that didn’t stop Inman from finishing the contest with his most exciting dunk of the night.

Starting at the 3-point line on the opposite end of the court, Inman lobbed the ball high into the air, then took off after it. He jumped at the foul line, grabbed the ball with his right hand fully outstretched, then controlled it long enough for his momentum to carry him to the basket so he could finish the one-handed slam.

The move earned him his fourth perfect 50 of the night. Video from the event shows It also brought the NAIA all-stars watching on the bench out of their seats with excitement.

“I kind of had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen,” SCU coach Quinn Wooldridge said. Wooldridge, who was also on the NAIA Tournament committee and saw the dunk contest live, added, “He was the far and away favorite of who was going to win. ... He is like a professional dunker. That’s kind of his thing.”

Inman is a senior at SCU, having transferred there from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva before his junior year. The Eagles went 6-22 for the 2013-14 season, with Inman averaging 12.11 points, and 6.11 rebounds.

Inman said he’s majoring in sports management and wants to become a physical therapist.

A 2009 graduate of Savanna High School, Inman is the son of current Lady Bulldogs basketball coach Diane Inman. He is engaged to Jaci Bigham, a former McAlester and Oral Roberts University basketball player.

To get a sense of how Tyler Inman’s slam dunk contest compares to others, consider this: two YouTube highlight videos from that 1988 NBA contest between Jordan and Wilkins have gotten about 400,000 hits each, and the 2006 NCAA contest in which White took second has gotten about 750,000 hits.

As of Thursday afternoon — just five days after winning the NAIA contest — Inman’s dunks have already gotten more than 330,000 hits.

Contact Matt Goisman at mgoisman@mcalesternews.com.