There was an energy in Magness Arena last night that gave all in attendance an idea of what lies ahead for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the University of Denver in the upcoming year. After a long 7 1/2 month hiatus, we’re finally approaching the start of the 2017-2018 basketball season, and the Fan Jam was a perfect way to whet fan’s appetites.
As mentioned previously on LetsGoDU, the men’s team will sport new uniforms this season, including gray alternates, which were well received by both fans and players. As we all know, uniforms don’t make a difference on a game by game level, but recruits are very interested in the latest fashion, and introducing alternate uniforms is a great strategy by Coach Billups to connect with the younger crowd. I look forward to seeing the gray alternates quite often this season, and I’m sure players and recruits do as well.
The event started with a nice nod towards the fans, by giving out free hamburgers and hot dogs for all in attendance, as well as sides and drinks. The band, cheerleading squad, and dance team were all in the arena, lending Magness a gameday feel and pumping up the crowd at each step of the evening.
Coach Billups and new women’s coach Jim Turgeon (coming to DU from just down south at CSU-Pueblo) both spoke at the event and each praised the turnout from DU supporters. Coach Billups stressed the importance of the DU community and encouraged all fans to attend the many great sporting events at DU that take place every week during the school year. Coach Turgeon emphasized his appreciation of the opportunity, while also noting that he now understands just how bad traffic in Denver is and how great it was for everyone in attendance to come out and support the basketball teams. I think we have a couple of really great coaches here at Denver and I look forward to what they will both accomplish.
We were also treated to a full introduction of both the women’s and men’s teams, including the throwing of t-shirts to young fans in the stands. I noticed many young kids proudly showing off their Denver Pioneers t-shirts, it was a great opportunity for the school to reach out to the next generation of Pioneers and from everything I saw, they did an amazing job.
From there, PA announcer Taylor Maples got the games started, beginning with a three point contest that featured Lauren Loven, Briana Johnson, and Samantha Romanowski from the women’s team and Jake Pemberton, Thomas Neff, and Joe Rosga from the men’s team, as well as a fan from the stands on each side. Loven and Rosga led the way for their respective squads while the actual game winner came from the fan on the men’s side – after which he was mobbed by the entire team in a giant celebration.
The most electric player event was easily the slam dunk contest, which featured Elvin Rodriguez, Jake Krafka, and Ade Murkey. All three impressed and in the end it came down to a tiebreaker dunk, which Rodriguez got a perfect 9/9 score on to win the title. The picture above is of Rodriguez and shows just how high up above the rim the 6’1″ guard can get.
There were also a number of other events with student and fan participation, including a student slam dunk contest (on a smaller hoop) and a new school/old school dance off that allowed both players and fans to show off their best moves.
The biggest fan event was the last of the night. With $10,000 on the line, lucky student Brian was chosen from the stands to shoot a half court shot. Claire Gritt and Christian Mackey each took some practice shots first, both missing close shots before giving the court to Brian, who made a superb effort but missed a bit to the left, hitting the backboard. It was a great close to the festivities though and after this everyone was invited out onto the court to shoot around or talk to the players and coaches, which many folks took advantage of.
It was nice to see a genuine appreciation from everyone on the team towards all of the fans that came out – building a sense of community like Coach Billups spoke of starts with a connection to the fans, and events like last night are great for those fans to get some personal interaction with the team and to get everyone pumped up for the upcoming season, which it certainly did. The Pioneers open their home seasons on November 12 with a men’s/women’s doubleheader at Magness, the men play UC-Irvine and the women play Northern Colorado. Look for the full season preview and podcast from LetsGoDU in the upcoming weeks!