by TAYLOR BRETHAUER, Editor-in-Chief
Manhattan College’s annual Manhattan Madness pep rally took place Thursday Oct. 30 in Draddy Gymnasium. It was a night of dancing, basketball contests and free t-shirts as students packed the bleachers and celebrated the start of basketball season.
T-shirts were handed out by members of Student Government, who co-sponsored the event along with the Athletics Department and Student Engagement. Students in line early enough outside of Draddy Gymnasium were guaranteed a shirt.
The Pep Band started up and the Manhattan Cheerleaders and the Jasper Dancers took to center court to dance and welcome fans.
Around 9:30 p.m., the lights shut off. The emcee took to the court to begin hyping the team up, as Student Government representatives threw more shirts into the crowd.
The event started with the National Anthem, played by the Pep Band. Members of the ROTC presented the flag on center court and students sang along to the anthem.
First to perform were the cheerleaders, with a surprise in their music mix of men’s basketball head coach Steve Masiello saying his catchphrase, “Jasper Nation, where are you?” Their performance continued with two-tier pyramids, back-tuck basket tosses, jumping, tumbling and of course, Jasper spirit.
Students were on their feet as the spirit squads lined up to welcome the women’s team. Last year’s team went 13-18 overall and 9-9 in MAAC play. Their season came to a close when they lost in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC Tournament against eventual MAAC Championship runner-up Marist.
As custom, each member of the team and coaching staff entered to their own song. The new freshman team members made their way onto the court: Kania Pollock, D’Yona Davis, Sydney Watkins and Diamond Shavis. Then the sophomores: guard Lynette Taitt, guard Sini Makela, guard Lizahya Morgan, guard/forward Nyala Pendergrass and center Courtney Warley. Then the juniors: guard Gabby Cajou, guard Emma Bedeker, forward Julie Hoier, forward Tuuli Menna and forward Pamela Miceus. Graduate student Candela Abejon was also welcomed. There are currently no seniors on the team.
The coaching staff was introduced one by one, ending with head coach Heather Vulin, who is in her third year of coaching the women’s team. She pointed out the team’s shirts that said “game day,” telling the crowd she wants everyone to show up for game day and keep the pep rally spirit going in the coming weeks.
Then, as per usual with Manhattan Madness, came the surprise of the night. If a student had “SGA” written on their t-shirt tag, they would be eligible for a basketball contest to win $10,000. The lucky student, Jack Meilleur, played the basketball game “around the world” from the three-point line but came up short, much to the crowd’s dismay.
The spirit squads kept coming as the Jasper Dancers took to the floor. With splits and flips all over the court, the crowd went wild. Notorious for using popular songs and dance moves, the girls began kicking and dancing to the song “Level Up” by Ciara.
The men’s basketball team started to line up after the Dancer’s performance. Last year’s team went 14-17 overall and 9-9 in the MAAC. Their season ended when they lost in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament to eventual MAAC Champion Iona.
Ak Ojo was the person announced, but he walked out with the entire basketball team in tow. The team made the spirit squads lining the court shift so they were facing the stairs leading into the Sixth Borough fan section.
All of the players did dances in front of the team down the aisle of cheerleaders and dancers, except for senior Matt Maloney and junior Pauly Paulicap.
Maloney led the team up into the stands with the fans, while Paulicap had planned an entire routine with the Jasper Dancers and the rest of the basketball team to the song “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe, which made the crowd go wild.
The new freshmen were introduced with their own dances and songs: guard Matthew Glassman, guard Elijah Buchanan, guard Samir Stewart, forward Daniel Schreier, guard Christian Hinckson, guard Tykei Greene and second-year freshman forward Warren Williams.
Then the sophomores: guard Ethan Lasko, guard Nehemiah Mack, forward Ebube Ebube and forward Kevin Salis.
Then the juniors: guard Jesse Boyce (who brought out his younger brother during his song, similar to his entrance last year), forward Tyler Reynolds and forward Paulicap. Graduate student forward Ibrahima Diallo was also welcomed to the team.
Finally, it was time for the seniors to make their entrances for the last time in their careers: guard Maloney, guard Thomas Capuano and guard Samson Usilo.
After the introduction of the coaching staff and a brief hype voiceover of past pep talks by Masiello, the head coach began shouting “Jasper Nation… where are you?”
He entered the court wearing Athletic Director Marianne Reilly’s jersey and gave her a shout-out, calling her the greatest Jasper basketball player, male or female, of all-time.
Masiello then jokingly told the crowd he was expanding the student section to the entire side bleachers, telling students to show up and cheer for their team.
“We’re your team,” Masiello said to the crowd. “We play for you, we play for this school.”
Unlike past years, there was no special musical guest to finish out the pep rally. Instead, Masiello told everyone he would be buying lunch the next day at 12:30 p.m. at Jasper’s Deli on W. 238th Street.
The emcee took the microphone back and had another student, Chris Hoffman, attempt a half-court shot for the $10,000. After two tries, Hoffman was unable to pull off the feat. The pep rally ended soon after that.
Fans exited the gymnasium into the night with new t-shirts in their hands and an excitement for the basketball season, with upcoming men’s and women’s games on Tuesday, Nov. 6 starting at 6 p.m. for the women against LIU Brooklyn and 8:30 p.m. for the men against Elon University.
The following day, nearly 100 students lined up outside of Jasper’s Deli. Masiello kept his promise, buying every student in line a sandwich, including creating his own called “The Masiello” which is a “meatball parm wedge with pepperoni.”
He stood outside greeting students and taking their orders. The line was cut off around 1 p.m. in order to accomodate for all the students that ventured up to the popular deli.
As students left and thanked the coach, he reminded them to show up on Tuesday for the upcoming game.
Although the fall semester is nearing the end, the basketball season is just beginning.