Villanova University got a big start to its ‘Halloweekend’ with the annual Hoops Mania celebration. It’s a celebration for the basketball team and marks the official start of basketball season.
Tickets were in high-demand. Students who were fortunate enough to win tickets through the lottery system lined up bright and early, in hopes for getting lower level seats at the Pavilion.
The festivities began with the iconic ‘All The Way Up’ (Villanova Championship Remix) performed by MRG, which was met with screams throughout the Pavilion, and set the stage for a high energy night of revelry and basketball.
The women’s team was introduced to the crowd first, raising the energy level for the event.
Rollie Massimino, coach of the 1985 team and Jay Wright’s mentor, was mobbed by the men’s team the second he stepped onto the court after being introduced to the Nova Nation. Wright–as well as many members of the sold-out Pavillion–got teary eyed as Wright told a story of Massimino giving a 1985 Championship Ring to his then-protege, and moments later presented Massimino with a 2016 Championship ring of his own.
Freshman Omari Spellman was introduced to the student body for the first time, and looked around in excitement and awe as his fellow students went wild for one of its newest additions to the team. Amid the screams and clapping, chants of “free Omari” heard from the audience started to build, resulting in the entire Pavilion yelling their support for Omari and dissatisfaction for the NCAA’s decision. The chanting didn’t die down, until Wright got a microphone and said “I love that you love our guy Omari.”
Once the event started to go under way, a number of different exciting events happened one after another. The newly revamped 1985 championship banner was revealed, and the matching 2016 banner was shown in its proper spot above the Villanova student section.
The court transformed into a stage for the men’s basketball team, but they weren’t showing off their basketball skills just yet. Those who watched the men closely before they stepped on the court saw them performing rituals usually saved for checking into games–wiping dirt and dust off the bottom of their shoes, and exchanging excited grins.
This time, instead of taking jump shots and shooting three’s, they were getting ready to perform alongside the Villanova dance team–showing off a different kind of footwork.
After their unconventional warm-up, a 3-point contest featuring members of Nova fraternities and sororities playing alongside members from the men’s and women’s team. At the end of the competition, Josh Hart‘s squad claimed the long-range shooting supremacy.
The 3-point contest was quickly followed by a quick blue-white scrimmage. Spellman made the first shot of the game, which resulted in students throwing blue and white streamers on the court in another fan-favorite Hoops Mania tradition.
After a quick scrimmage, a one round, winner-take-all dunk contest ensued. Each player had 30 seconds on the clock to execute their dunks. Judges for the contest included Ryan Arcidiacono, University President Father Peter O’Donohue, and head football coach Andy Talley. Darryl Reynolds was crowned king of the dunk contest.
His dunk was a reenactment of “The Shot.” Arcidiacono and the 4.7 second man himself Kris Jenkins ran through the motions of the final play used in the national championship. Instead of making a 3-pointer, Jenkins threw an alley-oop to Reynolds for a dunk that resulted in screams around the Pavilion. While students were remembering the championship night from April, they crowded the court in an effort to get near the front of the stage in preparation for the “surprise” performer.
Emerging from the smoke was rapper Wiz Khalifa, who added his name to the impressive list of entertainers that have visited the Pavillion for Hoops Mania. The concert started with his hit song ‘We Dem Boyz’ and ended with the student body pouring out of the Pavilion and onto Villanova’s campus.
Now with the festivities over, the Wildcats gear up for their title defense. A week from now, the men have an exhibition game at the Wells Fargo Center against the IUP Crimson Hawks on Nov. 5. Their first regular season game will be the following Friday after, when they host Lafayette at the Pavilion on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.