‘Nova Nation: Hoops Mania 2022 Recap


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Villanova fans swarmed the court following basketball festivities, welcoming Meek Mill to The Finn.

Sarah Sweeney and Lydia McFarlane

Hoops Mania 2022 was a huge success, with an intrasquad scrimmage from the Men’s Basketball team and a Jay Wright appearance, capped off by a performance by Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill. Students were happy with the event, enjoying the traditional beginning of basketball season and the performance from a local legend.

Hoops Mania marks the beginning of the basketball season and serves to get students excited for the approaching year. The event historically ends with a performance from a notable singer or rapper, whose identity is kept a secret until the performance begins. 

The event began with chants erupting from the Finneran Pavilion accompanied by the Villanova band’s upbeat tunes, as students got ready for the event, the annual student focused celebration of Villanova Basketball.

“This is Villanova. We’re competitive,” Joe Fabrizio, President of Villanova’s student section, The Nation, yelled, encouraging the left and right sides of the crowd to battle it out in the ultimate competition of who has the most school spirit.

Hoops Mania is nothing if not the ultimate ‘Nova tradition, performing its yearly festivities with the fresh excitement that accompanies a new basketball season. Students participated in the Progressive Shot Challenge, enjoyed performances by the dance and cheer team, and tried their hardest to be the lucky receiver of a t-shirt in the T-Shirt Toss. But Hoops Mania is nothing without ‘Nova Basketball. 

The event kicked off with the introductions of the women’s and men’s basketball teams. Women’s Basketball head coach Denise Dillon ran onto the court, yelling “How we doing Nova Nation?” to hype up the already excited crowd. After this, each player of the women’s team came out individually to their own walk out song. Following this, the women’s team performed a dance along with the Cheer and Dance teams, as well as Will D. Cat. They danced to several trending songs as the student-filled audience went crazy. 

Following the women’s team introductions and performances, Kyle Neptune was the of the men’s team to be introduced. This is Neptune’s first Hoops Mania as head coach, following Jay Wright’s retirement at the end of the last basketball season. Neptune then welcomed Wright, who was welcomed with cheers from the audience. Neptune then presented Wright with the 2022 Final Four ring, to which Wright said, “That’s nice! That’s nice.” 

The men’s team players were welcomed to the court shortly after. Freshmen #2 Mark Armstrong and #22 Cam Whitmore were the first to jog onto the court. The third member of the freshmen class, Brendan Hausen, was notably missing from his first Hoops Mania appearance due to a concussion. Once the rest of the team was introduced, Collin Gillespie appeared on a prerecorded video welcoming students to Hoops Mania. Gillespie, who was recently signed by the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, could not make the event due to NBA responsibilities. Gillespie introduced fellow alumni Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels to unveil the 2022 Big East Tournament championship and NCAA Final Four banners.

Hoops Mania continued the festivities with the three-point shootout, for which Team Brandon Slater and Lucy Olsen were victorious. 

“Oh man, this is amazing. Thank you guys for coming out,” Slater said following the victory. 

The annual Hoops Mania scrimmage then kicked off, with Angelo Brizzi, Collin O’Toole, Chris Arcidiacono, Eric Dixon, and alum Daniel Ochefu on Team Blue. Slater, Nnanna Njoku, Armstrong, Jordan Longino and alum Kris Jenkins occupying Team White. Slater scored the first basket of the season, which fans celebrated by throwing blue and white streamers onto the court. Team Blue was victorious in the end by a 16-13 margin. Armstrong later got an opportunity for redemption, winning the Hoops Mania Dunk Contest. 

After the contest, students were invited to come onto the court in preparation for the highly anticipated Hoops Mania closing performance. This performance is historically kept a secret from students, although it is definitely a source for rumors and speculation as students try to guess the performer before they’re revealed. Big names such as Lizzo, Doja Cat and Lil Durk were floating around as students tried to guess who the performer would be.

Neptune took to the stage to welcome Hoops Mania’s 2022 performer: Philadelphia’s own Meek Mill. 

“I hope you’ve been rocking with me because I’ve been rocking with Villanova for the last 20 years,” said Mill. 

“I’m from Philly,” Mill said. “I’m repping Philly ’til I die.” 

Mill closed his performance with his most popular song “Dreams and Nightmares.” Mill also paid a short tribute to fellow Philadelphia-born rapper PNB Rock, who lost his life to gun violence just a few weeks ago. 

As students filed out, the stadium was still filled with energy. Even after the end of the performance, students talked about the show and their enjoyment of the event.

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a former Men’s Basketball player, shared his thoughts on Meek Mill’s performance.

“I’m biased because that’s my favorite artist, but I genuinely enjoyed the show,” Cosby-Roundtree said. “I think the energy was great. I mean I feel like I was the main source – I was standing right in front of him screaming at him, but I think it was really good. It was really high energy and a lot of people knew his music.”

Omelly, rapper and cousin to performer Meek Mill, enjoyed the crowd’s energy.

“The vibe was awesome, but do you know what I liked the most about the whole show? The mascot,” Omelly said. “One of the best mascots ever.”

Who better to ask about the performance than the performer himself? 

As he was leaving, Meek Mill said, “Shoutout Villanova. Villanova held it down.”