Carolina Panthers

Mini-basketball tournament keeps Carolina Panthers loose, competitive at training camp

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, left, bumps Derek Anderson, right, after Anderson rushed for a touchdown during Fan Fest. Back in Spartanburg, Panthers players are in the midst of their annual mini-basketball tournament, and Anderson said all three quarterbacks made the final eight.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, left, bumps Derek Anderson, right, after Anderson rushed for a touchdown during Fan Fest. Back in Spartanburg, Panthers players are in the midst of their annual mini-basketball tournament, and Anderson said all three quarterbacks made the final eight. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers are having March Madness in August in their training camp locker room.

The players are in the midst of their annual mini-basketball tournament, and backup quarterback Derek Anderson said it’s coming down to the final eight competitors.

“Currently all three quarterbacks are still in it,” Anderson said triumphantly Saturday at Wofford College. “I don’t know if anybody cares. Got a big Elite 8 matchup coming up, probably tonight, after walk-through.”

The tournament is in its ninth season. The rookies create the bracket, the offensive linemen run the tournament and center Ryan Kalil is the commissioner.

Here’s how it works: Players are seeded based on their finish from the previous season. Anderson, who was knocked out in the first round last year because of a lack of focus, he said, was a 12 seed.

They shoot a mini-basketball into a mini-hoop secured by blue tape on a locker room wall and play a game of P-I-G.

No athletic movements are allowed, and there is certainly no dunking .

“We have a commissioner and the commissioner says whether it’s a legal shot or not,” Anderson said.

Kicker Graham Gano showed fans the competition on Snapchat earlier in the week.

Anderson beat longsnapper J.J. Jansen in the round of 16 to make it to the next round, where he will face receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

“KB’s going to be a struggle because he can shoot from here to the coke machine,” Anderson said, pointing to a vending machine in the back of the room nearly 20 feet away.

Trick shots are welcomed, but they come with a risk. Anderson has an off-the-wall shot he can make but doesn’t try in games because he doesn’t want to miss and surrender control of the shot.

“You got to have control of the ball, otherwise you lose,” he explained. “If he makes a jump shot, those are hard to make. If you lose control of the ball, you’re done.”

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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