CIAA Basketball: Livingstone's Midnight Madness a success
By Laurie Willis
SALISBURY - Mention March Madness and people think of the annual NCAA College Basketball tournament which begins in, well, March of course.Mention Midnight Madness and people think of perennial men's basketball powerhouses kicking off their seasons in high fashion.
But Midnight Madness isn't just reserved for your UNC Tar Heels, Duke Blue Devils or Kentucky Wildcats. In fact, the Livingstone College Blue Bears were rocking New Trent Gym so hard after midnight Sunday you would have thought they invented the concept.
"I had never been to a Midnight Madness before, and I'd never seen a slam dunk contest live, only on TV, so it was a lot of fun for me," said sophomore Hillman Tabi from Lanham, Md. "What I saw that was really interesting was the height of some of the guys that dunked. I've always thought I was too short to dunk, and when I saw a guy shorter than me dunk it was really amazing."
Tabi, a mathematics major, is the kicker on the Blue Bears football squad. But early Monday morning his thoughts were on the upcoming basketball season - not the gridiron.
"Based on what I saw at Midnight Madness, I think Livingstone's men's basketball team is going to be great this year," Tabi said. "It seems like they have more experienced guys and they're more mature this year. They've been working really hard, and I know hard work pays off."
The bleachers on one side of Old Trent Gym were filled early Monday morning with about 600 excited students who couldn't wait to get a glimpse of the Blue Bears 2012-2013 men's and women's basketball squads.
They seemed impressed when the lights were turned down for the introductions of players, and they also got a kick out of the way Dr. Herman J. Felton Jr., vice president of institutional advancement, announced the players "NBA style."
"Midnight Madness was nice. I had a good time," said Jaleel Corbin, a freshman business administration major from Savannah, Ga. "It was exciting. It could have been a little bit longer, but it got the point across. It was a little upscale, like the NBA almost. It was professional."
As Felton introduced the players, they tossed pink T-shirts reading "I love LC" into the bleachers in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which ends Oct. 31.
Midnight Madness Livingstone College style also included a three-point shooting contest, won by player Jody Hill of Detroit, a junior sports management major.
Hill was on fire, hitting 10 of 12 three pointers. In fact, he sank 10 consecutive threes before missing his first shot.
The three-point shooting contest was fun to watch, but there's no question what the students enjoyed most: the slam dunk contest.
Five men competed, including three basketball players and students Henry French, a freshman sports management major from Chicago, and Mike Okam, a junior biology major from Charlotte.
Suffice it to say the men put on a show with a series of high-flying dunks that got the crowd to its feet. The show stopper, however, was French, who won the contest after leaping over a student and dunking to bring down the house.
"He dunked the ball and he got swallowed by the crowd," Corbin said of his roommate. "He definitely showed out in a good way. He did his thing."
The idea to have Midnight Madness originated with members of the Livingstone College Media Group, Felton said.
"We hatched it about two months ago, had meetings with the men's and women's head coaches and then over the last two months had a couple of meetings to get the student-athletes' thoughts on what this night should entail," he said. "We had no idea it would be as well attended as it was. Our focus was to produce the best show for our student-athletes and let the chips fall where they may. I'm overjoyed with the turnout and more proud of how the LCMG took a simple idea and saw it through."
Livingstone's men's basketball team is coached by James Stinson Jr. Last year the squad was 11-17 overall and lost in the quarterfinals of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament to Bowie State.
The year before, the Blue Bears were 17-11 and made school history by reaching the finals of the CIAA Tournament.
Livingstone's women's basketball team is coached by Angelyne Brown. Last year the squad was 7-22 overall and lost in the first round of the CIAA Tournament to Virginia State.
"The L.C. Media Group did a tremendous job under the direction of Dr. Felton to set the stage for the upcoming year," Stinson said. "I hope we can build on the momentum from Midnight Madness and the success our football program and our volleyball team to continue taking Livingstone athletics to the next level."