Wright opens practice to public



Jonathan Stow

It’s only October, but already one of the most common topics of conversation across campus is this year’s men’s basketball team. The season’s first game is less than a month away and practices have begun. On Tuesday, head coach Jay Wright opened the last half hour of practice to the entire student body and the tremendous turnout was indicative of the excitement surrounding the upcoming season.

The short practice session consisted mainly of an intrasquad scrimmage which gave students and fans an early idea of the team’s strengths and weaknesses. While there were a few kinks still being worked out, especially on the offensive side, the team played well and with intensity. At several points during the scrimmage, impressive plays drew strong reactions from the student spectators.

Immediately following practice, the players came into the halfcourt stands and greeted students. This gesture was similar to the tradition established last season of the team coming onto the court through the student section.

According to Wright, these interactions are an important part of his philosophy, and will continue throughout the season. “No matter if we win or lose, we’re going to come into the stands,” he said. “[The students] are really important to us; we’ve won games at the Pavilion that we would have lost anywhere else, thanks to student support. This is our way of thanking everyone for that support.”

Wright’s theme of direct involvement with the student body continued when he addressed the crowd and answered several student questions. In his address, Wright thanked the students for their attendance and enthusiasm last season and promised them that this season would offer even more cause for excitement. The students responded enthusiastically to Wright’s casual attitude, a style distinct from that of previous coaches.

A few key issues were raised in the question-and-answer portion of the night. Most of the students’ concerns regarded the two games that the Wildcats play each year at the First Union Center in Philadelphia. Many of the students dislike the fact that games are played in that arena, which is home to two professional sports teams and seats three times as many people as the Pavilion. This large seating capacity tends to create the image of a nearly empty arena with little crowd noise. In addition, the First Union Center is located in South Philadelphia, some 25 miles away, making attending the games a hassle.

While sympathizing with the students’ grievances, Wright insisted that the games in Philadelphia are essential to the team. Each of those games, Wright informed students, is viewed by a national audience, which generates significant exposure for the University and provides marketing opportunities.

In essence, the games at the First Union Center generate substantial financial support not only for the men’s basketball team, but for the entire athletic program. Wright referred to the situation as a vicious cycle, explaining that “We have to play a certain amount of nationally televised games per year and we can’t play all of those games in the Pavilion. So unfortunately for [the students], we have to play them in the city.”

While concluding his session, Wright reminded students of pre-season events.

Hoops Mania, which is intended to generate student support, takes place tonight at 10 p.m. in the Pavilion.

Students will have a chance to win a variety of prizes, including a 2003 Ford Mustang and $10,000.

Saturday at 4 p.m., the team will participate in the Blue-White Game, an annual intra-squad scrimmage. The season officially begins Nov. 15 in New York City when the Wildcats take on Marquette. Buses will run from the University to the game. Tickets can be purchased at the basketball marketing office.