Cherry and White Night is not exactly Midnight Madness.
But it is an open invitation to mingle with the men’s and women’s basketball teams before they tip off in November. Last Friday night’s event at McGonigle Hall had a little bit of everything and certainly no shortage of excitement.
Walking through the door, students and fans were greeted with smiling faces, some familiar, others unidentifiable. The men’s and women’s basketball teams stood by the entrance to say “hello” to their loyal fan bases, and as the masses continued to shuffle in, coaches Fran Dunphy of the men’s team and Tonya Cardoza of the women’s addressed the 400-strong crowd.
Later, each squad scrimmaged and had some fun with the fans.
“It’s just nice to get together, introduce the team to the fans just to see what they can look forward to this year,” freshman guard Ramone Moore of the men’s team said.
The Temple Pep Band, Diamond Gems Dance Team and cheerleaders all added their own touches of school spirit. Food, T-shirts and other commodities were available to the spectators.
Center court served as a melting pot for students, players and Diamond Gems as the always humorous “dance-off” delighted the crowd. Senior guard Semaj Inge of the men’s team and junior forward Jasmine Stone of the women’s team put their best moves on display.
Other games included a “Deal or No Deal” session, a three-point shooting contest and a little role-swapping. Players, the band and the Diamond Gems raced to change outfits and make a layup.
Senior center Sergio Olmos of the men’s team hobbled to the finish line squeezed tightly into a leotard.
“I like how everyone comes out and supports the team,” said senior business and management major Danielle Casciotta. “I think it’s really great that a lot of people come here. It’s nice to see.”
The highlight of the night was seeing the two teams in action for the first time since last March in the forms of intrasquad scrimmages. While play was a bit sloppy, the players seemed loose and enjoyed the pressure-free atmosphere. Fans were able to get a glimpse of some of the new Owls they would be taking under their wings this year, as well as team mainstays.
“My favorite part about Cherry and White night is the entire student body coming out and supporting the basketball program, whether it’s men’s or women’s,” senior communications and theater major Brendan Kelly said.
His expectations for the year were quite simple: championships. “We have to win championships or we’re not anything.”
After the scrimmaging, an important message was delivered to the public. Led Dunphy, all participants and those in attendance marched to the Bell Tower to “Walk for the Cure.” This is the second year Temple has participated in this initiative, which was made to raise awareness for cancer. Dunphy has been a national voice in the fight and is a chairman for the Coaches vs. Cancer organization.
If you didn’t snag a free T-shirt or one of the other parting gifts given away, there was always the free ticket to the men’s team’s showdown with Tennessee on Dec. 13. The Liacouras Center Box Office worked overtime to distribute tickets to eager fans. The men’s home opener is Dec. 3 against Miami (Ohio), and the women’s is Nov. 14 versus Bowling Green.
The enthusiasm continues to build for the upcoming seasons. Storylines include the men’s team’s defense of the Atlantic Ten Conference Championship and the women developing under first-year coach Cardoza.
Cherry and White Night looks to be an appetizer to a long and potentially fruitful year of basketball on North Broad Street. In the end, though, it was all about giving back to the fans.
“[It’s about] all the fans coming out and enjoying themselves,” senior guard Dionte Christmas of the men’s team said. “I love the support that the fans give us every Cherry and White Night.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.