Squad Members hang out with Shock players after open practice

Tip-off Party Opens 2007 Season

Basketball fans aren’t usually invited to watch their favorite team practice and get autographs afterward, but that was the case for nearly 300 Detroit Shock season ticket holders Monday evening at the Squad Member Tipoff Celebration.

Squad Members brought their friends and family to Oakland University’s recreation and athletics center to reflect on last year’s championship and give the 2007 season a festive beginning.

Squad Members started the night with a buffet dinner and watched the Shock’s 2006 championship season DVD. It won’t be the last time they see it - each Squad Member received their own DVD copy to take home.

Assistant coach Rick Mahorn introduced the 2007 Shock players to the crowd, including newcomers Pee-Wee Johnson and Katie Feenstra. Only Swin Cash and Kara Braxton could not attend the two-hour long event.

Some fans were lucky enough - and young enough - to participate in the practice and shoot free throws on the court while the team was warming up. The brief practice wrapped up with Squad Members pulling out their raffle tickets for the prize drawing. Most of the prizes were autographed memorabilia, but the grand prize was a replica 2003 Shock championship banner. Nicole West, 11, from Redford, was the grand-prize winner - a nice way to start her first season as a Squad Member.

Fans who didn’t win raffle prizes didn’t have to wait long for autographs, as the players came around and met their biggest supporters. Deanna Payne, 19, from Clinton, said getting Ivory Latta’s autograph was a dream come true. A guard on the basketball team at Siena Heights University, Payne has admired Latta since her rookie year at North Carolina.

Calvin Watry may be 15 years younger than Payne, but he’s an old pro at meeting Shock guard Katie Smith. The four-year-old from Oxford has met Smith with her family at her alma mater, Ohio State, and was greeted with a big bug.

The Detroit Shock ended the 2006 season in the best way possible their fans - and it looks like they’ve picked up right where they left off.