By Ana Braccialli
Midnight madness is here starting at 10 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14 at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center. The annual Midnight madness signifies the beginning of practice season for the 2018-19 Tampa men’s and women’s basketball teams.
“It’s a great way for our student-athletes to connect with the students and celebrate the start of the basketball season,” Justin Pecka, associate head coach of the men’s basketball team, said. “We’re very excited to get out on the court in front of a crowd for the first time with this year’s team.”
The event is planned to begin at 9 p.m. with live music outside of the Martinez Center until 10 p.m. After that, the party will be moved inside of Martinez. Midnight Madness will be offering free food and giveaways from sponsors and student organizations around campus and a photo booth.
“I’ve gone to Midnight Madness every year since my freshman year,” Leticia Barros, grad student in marketing, said. “It’s always a fun time to spend with my friends, while we watch basketball and have free food.”
The men’s basketball team is feeling optimistic about this year’s team. With a few additions in the roster, the team is ready for the season to begin.
“We’ll play an exciting style, with lots of pressing and fast breaks,” Pecka said. “We’ve added a few new players that we are excited about and think that, combined with our returning upperclassmen, will result in a good team.”
According to Pat Bacon, point guard senior, the goal is to win the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) championship since they are more of a family right now.
“We get along with each other, we have fun,” Bacon said. “This team is special because I feel we are always hungry to win games. Our mentality is to do anything possible to win.”
The women’s basketball team can be defined with the word “chemistry,” even though they have several new players coming in this season.
“We have a lot of new players but we’re quickly building chemistry,” Emily Eshoo, point guard senior, said. “My teammates are very talented and fun to play with, so the fans can expect to have fun watching us too.”
Even though the women’s team is already struggling with injuries, they are determined to not let this factor affect the season.
“This team has good chemistry right now so that’s a big plus,” Thomas Jessee, head coach of the women’s basketball team, said. “We have good size and seem to be deep but we only have 10 players due to some summer injuries. We will need to stay healthy all year in order to compete at a high level.”
Both basketball teams are excited to have the entire student body in the stands at Midnight madness, however, they can get a little frustrated when people stop showing up throughout the season to watch the games.
“Regardless if we win or lose, we always appreciate our supporters,” Eshoo said. “We put in a lot of time and hard work and we love seeing fans in the stands.”
The basketball teams can see clearly how affected their rivals are when they go play away games and they have a good crowd cheering for the school.
“We play at a lot of schools that have great fan support and it really helps those teams,” Pecka said. “I am asking our student body to take pride in their basketball team and come out and support them. Give them a chance to win you over as a fan too.”
According to Jessee, creating school spirit at UT is still a possibility since he believes it only takes a small group of people to get it going.
“Be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Jessee said. “The campus at UT has great energy. With about 9000 students, there is no reason we can’t create a loud, enthusiastic, exciting game environment. Student support is so critical to our success. We want students to come out and learn about our team, our conference, and the great basketball history here at UT. “
Ana Braccialli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org