“We’re all in this together.”
This was the message Rick Croy, men’s head basketball coach at California Baptist University, gave to students at the first Midnight Madness to take place in the new Events Center.
The annual event featured a performance from the five-time national champion CBU cheer team, a dunk contest and a three-point shooting contest — all to kickoff the basketball season and act as a pep rally to get the 3,000 students in attendance excited for the upcoming season.
The doors opened to students at 10 p.m. and the fans swarmed the 5,000-seat Events Center armed with glow sticks and their Crazies T-shirts.
“(The Events Center) is really big. I like all the lights and noise and all of it,” said David Suderman, freshman chemical engineering major.
The Crazies physically rocked the bleachers throughout the night, causing the fold-out student section seating area to sway as they partied.
“The energy in there was fantastic; everybody really seemed to love it. It was a great time,” said Jacob DeRieux, junior music education major. “I felt more connected with the players. Everyone was really involved with each other and it created a really good sense of community.”
Following a seamless routine from the cheer team, the director of Chapel and “Voice of the Lancers,” Brett Vowell, introduced the 2017-18 men’s and women’s basketball teams to the crowd.
The women’s team treated students to a choreographed dance and the men’s team gave their rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” with Jordan Heading, junior kinesiology major and guard, as the lead singer.
“We have a real creative group and we have real strong senior leadership,” Croy said. “So (this year’s Midnight Madness) was a ton of fun for them and really a life memory.”
Cory Lange, graduate kinesiology student and guard, took home the three-point competition victory and Bul Kuol, sophomore undeclared major and forward, won the slam-dunk competition championship belt.
Croy estimated that more than 3,000 students attended the event. Students were met by a visual spectacle from the video boards and strobe lights when they first walked in. Then, when festivities came to a close, blue and gold balloons rained from the ceiling.
Among those in attendance were CBU athletic director, Dr. Micah Parker, and Dr. Ronald L. Ellis, president of CBU.
“We’re all on the same team,” Croy said, “and for this to be what it can be, everyone has to see it that way, and that’s what tonight was about. You could feel it in here.”
At the end of the night, Croy shared with the fans the words he gave his team when they first took residence in the state-of-the-art Events Center.
“What I told our guys essentially when we were permitted to get in (the new Events Center) is that, although this place is incredible, the reality of it is that buildings don’t really inspire people,” Croy said. “Buildings create platforms for people to inspire people.”