Hoops Mania celebration kicks off basketball season



Bryce McDevitt

Villanova’s annual Hoops Mania, which took place last Friday in the Pavilion, was an opportunity for the student body and alumni to get a sneak peek at the men’s and women’s basketball teams for the upcoming season.

The doors to the Pavilion opened at 6:30 p.m., but many of the devoted fans began lining up around 4 p.m. The line stretched from the main entrance of the Pavilion, down Ithan Avenue and down Lancaster Avenue past the football stadium. Unfortunately, many students were turned away because the capacity limit in the Pavilion was reached early, the first time this has happened in recent memory.

Among the guests were Philadelphia Eagles running back and former Villanova football player Brian Westbrook. He graduated from Villanova in 2001 and is considered the greatest football player the University has ever produced. Westbrook still holds 37 school football records.

In addition, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop and National League MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins came to help as one of the coaches in the annual Blue vs. White basketball scrimmage.

Westbrook coached the white team, while Rollins was responsible for the blue team.

While the dance team entertained the crowd, it was the unexpected dance performance by the men’s basketball team that left the spectators pleasantly surprised.

Wright took the Hoops Mania experience to a new level when he introduced ESPN analysts Bill Raftery and Tom Brennan as the scrimmage commentators.

Wright joined the duo in the booth during the scrimmage to provide commentary on the game and interview coaches Westbrook and Rollins.

Rap artist MIMS was the special musical guest. He performed his two hit songs, “Like This,” and “This is Why I’m Hot.”

“It was great to see big stars like that showing their support for Villanova,” junior Andres Tamayo said.

MIMS, whose real name is Shawn Mims, released his debut album, “Music Is My Savior,” in 2007; the album hit No. 4 on the charts.

MIMS has also recently been nominated for a 2007 BET award in the best new artist category.

In addition to all the celebrities, the men’s program unveiled its new assistant coach, Doug West.

The program is looking for West to help fill the void left by the departure of Ed Pinckney, who left Villanova to help coach the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Pinckney was a fan favorite and member of the historic 1985 championship team. The Pavilion also rocked to the nostalgic chants of “Cur-tis Sump-ter!” as the beloved player returned home.

Hoops Mania was also an opportunity for Wright to introduce his heralded freshman recruits: All-American Corey Stokes and point guards Corey Fisher and Malcolm Grant. Stokes attended St. Benedict Prep in Newark, N.J., where he was known for his 3-point shooting ability and athleticism.

Fisher hails from St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J. St. Patrick’s is known for producing great basketball talent like current NBA player Al Harrington and former Villanova guard Mike Nardi.

Grant comes to Villanova from the Winchendon Academy in Massachusetts.

The highly touted freshmen followed the lead of Big East Rookie of the Year Scottie Reynolds and company as the white team beat the blue team 28-19 in four five-minute quarters.

The blue team nearly came back, however, thanks to a strong effort from Reynolds, Stokes, Grant and red-shirt freshmen Antonio Pena and Andrew Ott.

“It was a great opportunity to see new players in action and see some of last years stars get loose,” Tamayo said.

Philadelphia high school phenom and Villanova recruit Tyreke Evans was also in attendance.

Evans is a senior at the American Christian School in Philadelphia and is believed to be one of the top high school players in the nation.

Villanova is competing with a host of other schools for Evans’ services next year.

It is believed that Louisville and Villanova are in the front running.

Along with the basketball-related festivities, students also participated in several contests and events. Students competed for prizes including $1 million from Land Rover.

The women’s team was also introduced one by one as they descended the student section of the PavilionThey begin their season on Nov. 9 against Philadelphia rival La Salle University.

The men’s team will begin their season against Stony Brook University on Nov. 9 at the Pavilion.

They will be playing an exhibition game three days before that at the Wachovia Center against Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.