By Nick Mazzerella and Kyle Kandetzki - Staff Writer and Assistant Sports Editor
Mark your calendars. The Hofstra men’s and women’s basketball teams open their seasons in exactly one month and this Thursday’s Midnight Madness event will pump up the Pride community for a new year of hoops.
The free event starts at 8:00 p.m. at the Mack Sports Complex and features the men’s and women’s basketball teams in action, as well as giveaways and prizes for those who attend.
Students should expect tailgating, free t-shirts, games with the possibility of winning gift cards or a round-trip flight and finally, an intra-squad scrimmage featuring both basketball teams.
“We want to share our excitement with the community,” said men’s basketball head coach, Joe Mihalich. “We all play for the name on the front, so we want everybody to be a part of it.”
Mihalich’s roster consists of seven players who didn’t play a single game in Hofstra uniform last year but Midnight Madness will familiarize fans with the team.
“It’ll be a way for people to get to know all the guys that they’re hearing about,” said Mihalich. “We’re going to play a little scrimmage so they can see the guys play.”
Women’s basketball head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey is excited to see a return of Midnight Madness, following versions in the past held during the afternoon instead, as well as at Hofstra USA.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done this, probably since the days of Jay Wright, current Villanova basketball head coach,” said Kilburn-Steveskey. “But with that being said, I’m excited to get back to that tradition.”
While the men’s team is expected to create some fireworks with highflying dunks, the women’s team will be taking different routes to generate excitement.
“It’s not the same for showcasing the women,” said Kilburn-Steveskey. “But we are still going to generate buzz with things like three-point contests and more.”
The women’s squad features three returning starters and four freshmen, a young team overall with no seniors. Hofstra fans can look forward to getting used to this roster after they introduce themselves at the event.
Coach Kilburn-Steveskey and sophomore guard Kelly Loftus spoke recently on how they present themselves to the student body without the dunks to show for it. They know there is a uniqueness about them that will fill that void.
“This team has such personality in it,” said Kilburn-Steveskey. “We are talented and competitive, so we want to show some things that put our best foot forward.”
Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway is one of the biggest enthusiasts of the upcoming season’s potential, as well as the hype that Midnight Madness is going to create.
Hathaway, in his third year as AD, came together with both basketball coaches in deciding to move the event back to the Mack this year.
“I talked with Joe and Krista and we wanted to get it back in the arena,” said Hathaway. “The students will get to see where the games are played first hand, and get to see how exciting both of these teams are going to be.”
Not only will the new squads be making their first appearance Thursday night, but also the Mack Sports Complex’s new floor design will be on full display. The floor, which used to have an “H” at the half-court mark, now features a huge Hofstra Pride logo.
Hathaway wants the event to build an even bigger audience for the upcoming season, noting how much of a benefit loud home games would bring to these teams.
“Student-athletes love seeing their fellow students in the crowd for these games, and as we build up a bigger crowd, and our teams play well, opponents are going to know that Hofstra is a tough place to play,” said Hathaway.
With an improved program, and new rosters for the 2014-15 season, Thursday’s Midnight Madness might just be the beginning of some exciting success in the Mack Sports Complex coming this winter.