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UW-Milwaukee Midnight Madness

October 21, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Horizon Madness – Midnight at UW-Milwaukee

by Nick Dettmann

It is a long-standing tradition on college campus all across the United States and has been for the better part of 20 years.

The pumped up student section, the school band playing the fight song, the free food and beverages and the raffles of free merchandise. And, no one can forget the loud cheers and the ooh’s and aah’s of the slam dunk contest.

All of that is part of the tradition known as Midnight Madness. Colleges all across the country throw a big tailgate party at their respective gyms or arenas to get ready for the most anticipated part of the school year, basketball season. Because, at the stroke of midnight, basketball practice has officially begun.

At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, students, faculty, alumni and fans gathered at the on-campus Klotsche Center to help ‘christen’ the new basketball season. And this season, the Panthers have two more reasons to be a little more to be excited about it.

Last season, the Panthers made their magical run into their first NCAA Tournament and are primed to do it again. In addition, they will get the opportunity to return to the arena they called home before the 1997-’98 season, the now-called US Cellular Arena, formerly known as the MECCA Arena.

A large turnout could be seen at the Klotsche Center, one of the bigger crowds in recent memory, both by students and the surrounding community. Students were decked out in black and gold ensembles with the face paint, the goofy wigs and the body paint.

Local Milwaukee radio station, WKKV ‘V-100’, was on-hand and served as the special guests for the evening. The night’s MC was the UWM student body president Kory Kozlowski. After the short introduction, which was cut short because the fans were so riled up about the upcoming basketball season, Kozlowski brought on two people that could carry the noise, men’s and women’s head coaches Bruce Pearl and Sandy Botham.

After Botham addressed the crowd talking about envisioning reaching the next level. The student’s coach, Mr. Pearl, walked up to the microphone. The student section wasted no time in their famous-chant ‘Bruce…Pearl…Bruce…Pearl’.

Pearl focused his speech to the fans about keeping their support and thanking them for the 10,000-plus fans that was packed into the US Cellular Arena for last year’s Horizon League championship game.

The night’s festivities began at 10:30 p.m. central daylight time. Fans, courtesy of V100, got the chance to sing a little karaoke. With the karaoke, the fans could sign themselves up for raffle tickets to win fabulous UWM merchandise, get free food and get their free t-shirt.

As the clock wound down to midnight, the cheerleaders, the dance team and the band showcased their talents with difficult tumbling routines, high-energy dancing and an energetic band.

Then…it was time…the countdown to midnight…5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Right at the sound of the buzzer, the men’s and women’s basketball teams come out of their locker rooms and start their first moments of practice.

After five minutes of lay-up drills, it was time for the showcase to begin. Up first, was the three-point contest. Three players made up each team, three from the guys and three from the girls. Game one was tight, but it was the guys squeezing out the win 42-39. Game two was not that tight, however, it was the guys coming out victorious again 54-27. Then, it was double or nothing for the title. The two squads went up against each other one more time. The girls hung tight, but could not finish it off and the guys prevailed 39-27 to claim hold of the three-point championship.

For the encore presentation, the most exciting and high-flying action ever imaginable rolled onto the UWM campus, the slam-dunk contest. With a bunch of new players for the men, many of the fans did not know what to expect. And each of them were wowed out of their seats by the end.

Up first was Rob Sanders. He would miss his first attempt, but hit a powerful second dunk. Then, one of the many highlights of the contest came. Newcomer Ed McCants decided to pull a move out of the pocket of his idol, Michael Jordan. In 1987, Jordan flew the length of the lane and slammed home one of the most historic dunks ever. In 2003, McCants attempted the same move.

McCants took the running start from the opposite end of the court, made his approach took off, just in front of the line, but missed. He would a second shot. Leading the crowd on and the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs, McCants made his second attempt. Holding the ball in hand, he got to the line, left his feet, soared through the air and slammed it home. The miraculous dunk brought the crowd to its feet and a near deafening cheer.

However, the men were not done. After some powerful and jaw-dropping jams by Fernando Johnson and Boo Davis, it was Davis’ turn to wow the crowd. He and Johnson reached the finals. Davis brought the crowd to its feet and its loudest cheer of the night after his mid-lane reverse jam that left the backboard shaking.

After all the ooh’s and aah’s, that brought the crowd to the end of the evening with Pearl inviting the fans to the open practice session on Saturday morning.

Basketball season has now returned.


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