A full-capacity Smith Center crowd watched a high-octane, explosive evening of music, entertainment and fireworks Friday night to begin the 2000-2001 GW basketball season.
Midnight Madness is a nationwide tradition, in which universities host a pep rally the night before their basketball teams begin formal practice.
Some students were turned away at the doors this year because the event was so full, said Mike Gargano, vice president of Student and Academic Support Services.
I was watching the Yankees game and after they won I walked over to the Smith Center with a bunch of my friends, said senior Paul Sosman. But, we were turned away at 11:40.
More than 100 staff members and volunteers manned the Smith Center doors and worked throughout the building, Gargano said. The doors opened at 10:30 p.m., about 15 minutes before they were officially scheduled to open.
Sophomore guard Lindsey Davidson ran through the line of fans waiting to enter the Smith Center. She carried a video camera with her the entire evening for a documentary she said she plans to make about the women’s team.
The evening spectacle was highlighted by a roller-skating performance from the Funky Funk Skaters, entertainment from the Boehman Family Jugglers and a fire-juggler on stilts who performed amid booming pyrotechnics. Midnight Madness also featured a performance by members of the Harlem Wizards, who dazzled the audience with dribbling and passing tricks.
GW mascots big George and little George put on a dance spectacle and staged a mock fight with a look-alike of University of Maryland’s terrapin mascot. Big George brought the crowd to a roar when he unveiled a thong and broke it down to Sisqo’s Thong Song.
Cheerleaders announced the winner of the GW raffle, which will send freshman Rachel Thomasson to Hawaii to watch the men’s basketball team play in a preseason tournament.
When the clock struck midnight, it was officially time for SirValient Brown, Kristeena Alexander and the rest of the men’s and women’s teams to begin warm-up drills before each team broke into a 10-minute scrimmage.
It was a great time, Brown said. I was just enjoying myself, doing a little dunking, a little fast-break action.
Brown, the nation’s second-leading scorer last year, brought the crowd to its feet with a high-flying dunk off an alley-oop pass from senior forward Valery Khamenia. Freshman Darnell Miller made his Midnight Madness debut in style when he passed himself the ball off the backboard before completing the play with a lay-up.
It was just great to come out here with the crowd behind us, Miller said. I’m just trying to make it happen out here.
Men’s head coach Tom Penders said the event served its purpose of rousing excitement for GW basketball.
The crowd was great and everybody got through it without a sprained ankle, Penders said. That’s all I worry about. Midnight Madness is about fun, getting the kids psyched about practice and the season.
Penders and GW women’s head coach Joe McKeown ran out onto center court 30 minutes before the players were introduced, calling on the fans to show their support throughout the season.
McKeown, wearing Colonial colors, thanked fans for setting attendance records for the women’s team last year. The women went a perfect 16-0 at the Smith Center last season.
The 12-year GW coach told the screaming crowd that he once again needed fan support and said basketball magazines have ranked his team anywhere from 15th to 20th in the nation.
Penders asked the crowd, Are you ready for some basketball?
He also called the evening the best Midnight Madness in the country, drawing a huge applause from the 5,000-plus fans.
Lindsay Davidson also had her video camera with her when the teams huddled at center court at midnight and she carried it with her at the end of the night when she stood on the sidelines with her family.
Davidson was 1-of-2 from the field with a three-pointer in the scrimmage.
The evening introduced the crowd to junior forward Attila Cosby, a transfer student from the University of New Mexico who previously played at the University of Pittsburgh. Cosby is scheduled to begin playing with the team January.
Cosby was ineligible while charges of first-degree sexual assault were investigated last summer. The charges were dropped by a D.C Superior Court judge in July.
I had a great time tonight and I’m happy to be here, Cosby said. Despite all the stuff that’s happened, I’m not worried about that. I’m real happy just to be here with my teammates and to enjoy GW.
Penders defended his transfer forward after the scrimmages.
Because you’re accused of something doesn’t mean anything, Penders said. But (Cosby is) a good kid and I’m happy that the University did the right thing and was patient. The kids are very tight and Attila is very much a part of the family.
McKeown stood on the sidelines during the women’s scrimmage and praised the 5-foot 5-inch freshman Marsheik Witherspoon, while watching the newest inside threats Alexis Darling and Ugo Oha.
We’re a big team now, sophomore forward Erica Lawrence said. We’ve got good size, we’ve got a good post game going on and we’ve got guards who can shoot. We’re ready to go.
The teams began their first organized practices Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center and will begin their seasons with home exhibition games scheduled for early November.
Tonight’s scrimmaging really gave the crowd a chance to see what we’re really about, senior guard Alexander said. Especially the people who don’t come out to see us on a regular basis. I’m expecting a lot from myself, my teammates and if we don’t go further than we did last year, that would be a disappointment.
Last year, the men’s team did not qualify for the NCAA tournament. The women lost to Notre Dame in the second round of the tournament.