by Taylor Brethauer
Manhattan College’s annual Manhattan Madness pep rally took place this past Thursday in Draddy Gymnasium. It was a night of fun, celebration and Jasper spirit as students packed the bleachers and welcomed the start of basketball season.
Students began lining up outside of Draddy Gym almost two hours before the doors would open at 8:45 p.m. Those that entered early would be guaranteed a free T-shirt.
Over the summer, the court had undergone a facelift, replacing the previous all-green floor for a more classic-looking hardwood floor. The gymnasium as a whole had also been constructing brand-new bleachers. The main court had also been rid of the “Slamdunk 3000” hoops used in last year’s games.
These changes didn’t faze students, who were decked out in Jasper green. Others opted for Halloween costumes to celebrate the recent holiday. Students were taking pictures in front of the official Jasper backdrop, chanting Steve Masiello’s name into “Manhattan” megaphones and singing along to the music with their friends.
Soon enough, the lights shut off. The band continued playing as a smoke machine was turned on and the emcee approached the student crowd to hype them up.
The band performed the National Anthem and students sang along. As soon as it was over, a “Let’s Go Jaspers” chant began and everyone joined in.
Then came the dogs.
Much to the surprise of the student body, Student Engagement had booked a dog performer, something they had not done in the past. As the dog leapt into the air to make a near-impossible catch of a frisbee, students went wild.
The MC cheerleaders took to the floor next. It was a strong and confident performance as their music played along to their back tuck basket tosses, two-tier pyramids, jumping, tumbling and end dance.
The spirit squads kept coming as the Jasper Dancers, fresh off of their fifth place finish at the National Dance Association Collegiate Competition in Florida, took to the floor. Their new uniforms are tailored to their hip hop routine.
The crowd went wild as the dance team started up their routine. Notorious for using popular songs and dance moves, the girls began moving to the hit song “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B.
Students were on their feet as the spirit squads lined up to welcome the women’s team. Last year’s team went 4-16 in MAAC play and 8-22 overall, losing in the first round of the MAAC Championship.
As custom, each member of the team and coaching staff entered to their own song, sometimes with a dance or sometimes with a simple wave or fist bump. The new freshman team members made their way onto the court: guard Lynette Taitt, guard Sini Makela, guard Lizahya Morgan, guard/forward Nyala Pendergrass and center Courtney Warley. Redshirt junior forward Tuuli Menna was also welcomed.
The senior class was met with the most cheers and applause, as fan favorites walked down the path of dancers and cheerleaders for the last time: guard Taylor Williams, guard Amani Tatum, center Mikki Guiton, guard Nyasha Irizarry and center Kayla Grimme.
The coaching staff was introduced one by one, ending with head coach Heather Vulin, who is in her second year of coaching the women’s team. She thanked the crowd for their support and their never-ending “Jasper spirit.” She also gave a shout-out to her husband and thanked him for his support.
While the women’s team had been walking on, the men’s team had snuck up to the top of the side bleachers for their special entrance.
Last year’s team went 5-15 in MAAC play and 10-22 overall, losing to Rider in the first round of the MAAC Championship.
The new freshmen climbed down the stairs of the bleachers to applause: forward Warren Williams, guard George Strzala, guard Nehemiah Mack, forward Ebube Ebube and forward Kevin Salis.
After Aaron Walker Jr. was the only returning freshman, the team looked to recruiting more members including sophomore forward Pauly Paulicap and graduate student guard David Varoli. Also new to the team is sophomore guard Jesse Boyce, who entered with his younger brother.
Finally, it was time for the seniors to make their entrances for the last time in their careers: guard Zavier Turner, forward Zane Waterman, forward Calvin Crawford and guard Rich Williams. This year’s senior class is the biggest of the previous two years.
Just like in years past, head coach Steve Masiello began shouting “Jasper nation… where are you?” He told the crowd that they were coming back for the championship.
Masiello then explained to the crowd a new incentive for the men’s basketball games entitled “Fan of the Game.” Every game, one fan in the stands will be chosen as the “fan of the game” and win 50 percent off Under Armour merchandise for the rest of the season.
As if that wasn’t enough, Masiello began saying Manhattan would win on any court, at any school and “on any block.” He then invited out rapper 2 Milly to perform his song “Milly Rock” with the lyrics, “we milly rock on any block.” Fans rushed onto the court to crowd the rapper as the pep rally came to a close.
Fans exited the gymnasium into the night with new t-shirts in their hands and an excitement for the basketball season which is just around the corner.