The basketball program kicked off the 2003-04 season last Friday with its annual Hoops Mania pep rally at Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. About 3,000 students were on hand to witness the start of another season for both the men and women’s programs.
A Velvet Rope Block Party sponsored by Comcast and Y100 was added to this year’s festivities outside of the fieldhouse.
Leading chants of “Let’s go ‘Nova!,” men’s head coach Jay Wright stirred basketball fans at the block party into a frenzy by offering prizes and free giveaways to students who converted a free throw attempt.
Prizes included a $250 gift certificate to the bookstore, an Xbox system, a DVD player, seats in the Comcast luxury box for a 76ers game and the opportunity to announce the starting lineups at a home game this season.
Once the festivities moved inside for Hoops Mania, the University cheerleaders warmed up the crowd as DJ 007 played music. When the lights dimmed, a voice over the loudspeaker said, “Since that day, [Villanova’s defeat of Georgetown in 1985], you’ve waited … and now it’s time to reclaim our crown. Tonight, destiny begins here!” With that, Wright emerged from the darkness to an ovation of screaming fans. He ran around the court and greeted those in attendance. “We really believe that the best place to play basketball in the entire country is Villanova University,” Wright said.
Another well-known coach in attendance was Steve Lavin, a former UCLA coach turned ESPN analyst, notorious for his slicked black hair. Lavin pledged his allegiance to Villanova basketball. “Even though I’m supposed to be objective because of my man Jay Wright, I’m a big Villanova basketball fan,” he said.
Several students at Hoops Mania had opportunities to win extravagant prizes. Sophomore Brian Sensi attempted to win a 2003 Land Rover with a shot from half court. “I’d better make this,” he said before the shot. Although his effort landed considerably short, he was excited that he had the chance and was given a new stereo as consolation.
Kevin Tatlow, a freshman, won free Garett Hill pizza for a year after being crowned the champion of the three slice pizza-eating contest. “I love pizza,” he said.
Several other students had the chance to cash in on up to $10,000 in a shootout, but erroneous shots from the perimeter earned the best shooter only $100. No one made the $10,000 shot from half court during the 30-second allotment.
“The Extreme Team,” a group of high-flying acrobatic basketball players currently touring the United States, provided additional Hoops Mania entertainment by rocking the rims and the crowd with trampoline dunks.
Two legendary names in the University’s basketball history were also given court time. Ed Pickney, MVP of the Final Four in 1985 and new assistant coach to the ‘Cats, and Doug West, the third all-time leading scorer in University history, addressed the crowd about the importance of a strong fan base at home games and how special the University has been for them. Both Pickney and West enjoyed careers in the NBA. Representing the University’s football past was alumnus Brain Finneran, wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons.
Another Hoops Mania highlight came when women’s head coach Harry Perretta unveiled the Big East Championship banner, claimed last spring when the women defeated UConn and ended the Huskies’ historic 70-game winning streak. The banner will hang in the rafters of the Pavilion.
After both teams were introduced to the crowd, the men’s team played an eight-minute intra-squad Blue and White game. The Blue team won, scoring coupons for fans who had received a blue shirt from a cheerleader.