Tonk. Uno. Spades. Laptops. Bluetooth Speakers. Cameras. This isn’t a juxtaposition of two aisles at Target, no, but rather it’s the scene in the line of Thursday’s Spartan Madness. Some people have been waiting outside since 2:30 that afternoon. The doors open at 7. That’s how serious students at UNCG are about their Spartan Basketball teams, with the men’s team fresh off of a 15-19 (10-8 Conference) record and a College Basketball Invitational bid lasting into the quarterfinals. Free Spartan Madness tee shirts along with Nick Cannon and the Wild’n Out crew would promote a great turn out as well, which was a capacity crowd for the 3rd annual event.
After playing a few games of Uno and spades to pass the time (and it was a lot of time to kill) I came across the very first person in line. Freshman Luke Valanca was coming fresh off of an interview from the UNCGSports Network (quite the popular one this guy was) he checked in with me to tell me how excited he was to come to his first ever Spartan Madness.
“I just wanted to get good seats here, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.”
He wasn’t kidding either, as he came equipped with his MacBook and an assortment of snacks. “I had some homework to catch up on and a quiz to do, I didn’t get any of it done but it was something to pass the time” he replied when I asked him about the dedication to his preparation. Fellow Carolinian staffer Sarah Purnell added why she decided to come so early.
“Because we wanted to see Nick Cannon [laughs]” Junior Maggie Valentine quantified the level of excitement as compared to last year by stating “Last year it was really fun, but it was just the team. Now with Nick Cannon, it’s going to be even cooler.”
After formally being introduced and doing a combined dance routine with the Spartan G’s dance team, it was finally time for basketball. The intra-squad scrimmages serve as a first look at freshmen Kylia Sykes, Malik Massey, Kyrin Galloway, Alexus Willey, Nadine Soliman and Dorian Sharp, among others. This also starts the beginning of the final season for seniors Diante Baldwin, Clay Byrd, RJ White, Bailey Williams, Gena Penick, Jada Scaife, India Timpton, Mariah Wilson and Shanese Harris.
While the scrimmages were entertaining, the basketball program decided to put Spartan Madness over the top with two new additions: the 3-Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest. It was fun seeing two UNCG students launching threes with members of the men’s and women’s basketball team, it shows that the team values and appreciates the involvement of its student body as the program continues to grow. As for the results, Francis “Dinero” Alonso showed us why his jump-shot is money by torching the nets with a winning 15 point performance. Bailey Williams also displayed that she can pace the Lady Spartans in triples at any given moment by putting up 11 and 10 points in both rounds respectively.
Kyrin Galloway and RJ White showed us that humans can fly in the Dunk Contest that capped off the Madness portion of the Homecoming event, with the latter bringing the house down by windmilling over freshman guard Jack Konstanzer. While on the subject of turning heads, there was quite the chatter in the stands about Milwaukee transfer Justin Jordan’s all gold shoes. Turns out that the shoes in question were the Air Jordan 6 “Pinnacle”, a limited edition pair set to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s first championship that were released two days after Spartan Madness. A bold first impression indeed for the junior transfer.
Once the Madness concluded, it was time for Nick Cannon’s Wild’n Out Tour, hosted by ACE. DC Young Fly, Chico Bean and Darren Brand were a roar to the capacity crowd, which actually got to participate in two of the most popular segments of the show: Family Reunion and WildStyle. The cast was very hospitable, to the point where they invited everyone on stage to take pictures with them in an impromptu meet and greet.
All and all, the event was a rousing success. It got the students involved in ways that it never had before, whether it was shooting with players from the school to shooting for free tuition for school, the interaction between the athletic department and the student body was a great touch. When leaving Fleming Gymnasium, you can hear people buzzing with anticipation for not only the home opener against Virginia November 11, but also the women’s game against Brevard the next afternoon in this very same building. Get your popcorn ready, and let the madness begin!