The evolution of an alley-oop dunk


Now that was a little bit ridiculous.

With six minutes left in Saturday’s game against Washington, USC had a comfortable lead and total control of the game.

The score was 69-48, a few fans were starting to pile out of the Galen Center and an impressive win was seemingly on the way for USC.

Then redshirt senior point guard Mike Gerrity and redshirt senior forward Marcus Johnson connected on an alley-oop dunk for the ages — a dynamic display of just about everything good in the world of sports.

A perfect synergy of instinct, skill and luck; a beautiful rendezvous between ball and player just above the rim; a meeting of two objects — ball and player.

Quite simply, it left everyone in the building in utter disbelief.

“He did not throw a lob right now,” redshirt junior forward Alex Stepheson said postgame, describing his initial reaction to seeing Gerrity heave the ball from beyond midcourt. “Tell me he did not throw a lob right now.”

He did, Alex.

Gerrity caught a pass from sophomore forward Nikola Vucevic, dribbled twice and hurled the ball towards the vicinity of the basket.

Gerrity said afterward that his football skills were horrible, but I’d venture to say he was probably just being humble — I’d like to see USC quarterback Matt Barkley make that throw.

Anyways, while the ball was in the air, Johnson was running down the court.

Somewhere mid-flight, he said he got the idea that he should jump to meet the ball.

Good decision, Marcus.

Just after that came the monstrous slam that electrified the crowd to never-before-seen levels.

But it’s not the first time Gerrity and Johnson have connected on an alley-oop. And it’s definitely not the first time Johnson has ignited the Galen Center crowd with a big dunk.

Finisher · Senior forward Marcus Johnson, shown here against Tennessee, was at the receiving end of a crowd pleasing alley-oop. - Seth Rubinroit | Daily Trojan

In the area of alley-oops, they’re both old hands.

Gerrity, an altogether average athlete, has one redeeming factor that has propelled him to success at the college level: He’s got the vision of an NBA-caliber point guard.

Teammates have been saying it since they met him.

Guard Jio Fontan, who’s sitting this season after transferring from Fordham, told me a couple weeks ago that he had so much to learn from watching Gerrity pass.

This alley-oop slam is only the latest manifestation of Gerrity’s passing ability — in short, he just knows how to dish.

And Johnson is similarly talented in his field — the field of dunking.

Many USC fans first learned Johnson’s name after his spectacular posterization of Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez last February, and the dunks have kept coming since.

“It’s just stupid what he can do in the air,” Stepheson said of Johnson,

No, Alex, that’s not stupid at all.

What Johnson can do in the air is quite amazing actually.

That man can jump.

In practice, in games, heck, just about anywhere — that man can jump.

And the Galen Center crowd is just the beneficiary of this teamwork, the witnesses to an alley-oop dunk for the ages.

So while only 11 games remain for the Trojans this year no matter their record, this season isn’t a total waste.

Not at all.

This Gerrity-Johnson connection will be remembered for years to come as the alley-oop heard ’round Los Angeles.

Never mind that it took place in an already decided game, never mind that it took place in front of fewer than 6,000 fans and never mind that it won’t really affect the season of the team it benefited.

None of that matters.

There is always something to be said of the beauty of an alley-oop dunk.

Always.

“Looking Past the X’s & O’s” runs Mondays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Pedro at pmoura@usc.edu.