Midnight “Mav-ness” a hit with Mesa State students
Kurt Bangle’s biggest fear was that no one would show up.
He never imagined being part of a contest to dress himself in flip-flops, sweatpants, a floppy hat and an undersized basketball jersey, all the while dribbling a basketball the length of the floor and back against a member of the Mesa State College women’s basketball team.
Not only did the Mavs’ 6-foot-8 senior center lose by a full floor length to 5-5 guard Jocelyn Zarling, he lost in front of what might have become became a bigger fear than no one showing up: Close to 500 students filled half of Brownson Arena on Tuesday night during the Mavericks’ Midnight Madness.
“It’s a lot better than what I expected,” Bangle said. “They’ve done a really nice job with it. It’s turned out to be quite fun. The students are getting into it and I’m sure they’ll go back and tell people how much fun they had.”
The Mavericks’ first midnight “practice” in 20 years was a hit, not only with the players and coaches, but the students, who were the recipients of pizzas delivered by the Mavs, T-shirts given away at the door and tossed into the stands and several other prizes and giveaways.
One student won an MP3 player by winning a musical layup contest and one group got into a shooting contest with a half-dozen members of the college teams, which had men’s coach Jim Heaps cringing when his players started out by bricking shots.
“It’s gonna be a long year,” associate head coach Andy Shantz said, shaking his head as another shot clanged off the rim. He and Heaps both felt better once shots started to fall.
Yes, Heaps loaded up on coffee all day and stayed awake long enough to watch the festivities, and although women’s coach Timi Brown attempted to take a nap before the event began at 10:30 p.m., she admitted she couldn’t sleep.
“I’m shocked,” Brown said, glancing over at Heaps, who’s usually in bed long before the events began. “I knew he would come through.”
Both teams have their first official practice this afternoon and then settle into a routine leading up to the season opener the first week of November.
With cheerleaders and players tossing mini basketballs and T-shirts into the stands, the students were full of energy early on in the night, especially when they were called out for a dance contest.
The men’s team sent Jeff Dolan, a redshirt freshman forward who transferred from Western State, to represent them in the contest. Despite their hearty cheers in the fan voting, Dolan was one of the first dancers dismissed.
“He’s got to earn his way,” Bangle said, laughing.
A member of the custodial staff joined in, much to the students’ delight, and she was one of the finalists.
She eventually lost out to a male student, who had run out of moves by the final round, including tossing his T-shirt into the stands, but won it in a landslide when he sprinted over and started dancing with his opponent.
At the stroke of midnight, the lights dimmed and one by one, the players were introduced, running through the inflatable Maverick tunnel.
After a few shooting drills, the Mavs gave way to the final event of the night, the chance for a student to win tuition and fees for the spring semester if one of them could make a half-court shot.
Five students had a chance, with a couple of them on line but short. One hit the front of the rim but didn’t get the shooter’s roll.
The night was a big enough success that Brown is ready to make it an annual event.
“I’m pretty happy about it,” she said. “As long as they have fun, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about fan interaction and trying to get some enthusiasm generated on campus. Football is doing well and volleyball and soccer and that always helps going into basketball season.
“It’ll just get bigger and bigger. The first time starting something anywhere is tough, but we had a lot of people helping. I just want it to get bigger.”
Bangle knows the key to getting people in the stands: Giveaways.
“Free stuff always goes over well.”