Oct. 21, 1997
Friars Tip Off 1997-98 Season With Midnight Madness
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Providence College Friars tipped off the 1997-98 college basketball season at midnight on Saturday morning to the delight of over 3,000 people jammed into Alumni Hall. Pete Gillen and his "new look" Friars hit the court at the stroke of midnight coming through the fog and spotlights to put on a slam dunk display to get the crowd going charged up.
The evening started at 8:30 p.m. in Peterson Center as the Friars were honored by over 300 people in the annual pre-Midnight Madness dinner. Members of the PC Front Court Club and fans were able to mingle with the coaching staff and players prior to the dinner. Following dinner, each player introduced another player telling a story about that player. Tri-captain Jamel Thomas closed the introductions by thanking the fans in attendance before turning things over to Pete Gillen.
Gillen then introduced Ruben Garces, a graduated member of last year's team, who was in attendance. Garces thanked the Friar fans for their support and reminded this year's team that with hard work and determination, they can reach their goals just like last season's team did.
Following Garces, Gillen spoke of last year's accomplishments and pointed to the new year at hand. Eight players who didn't play a minute last year will play for the Friars this season. Four new freshmen, one junior college transfer, two transfers and a redshirted player. Despite the big turnover on the roster, the Friars' bench boss said he's ready to get started. Gillen said, "we had a great year last year with some great players. That's behind us now, and we've got a new group of players to work with. I'm excited about this group of players, they're talented, but they are young. Now it's time for us to get started on adding to the Providence College tradition."
While the speaking portion of the program was going on downstairs, over 2,000 students were enjoying a variety of games and music in Alumni Hall. PC's Student Goverment ran the evening with the help of several other student groups. Students participated in a pie eating contest, played various basketball contests, enjoyed dance contests and wound down the evening with the always popular lip-synch contest which was won this year by a Michael Jackson look-a-like.
As 11:00 p.m. approached, the television lights came on as all three local stations were live trying to catch the excitement in the building. Pete Gillen did his interviews and then went to join his team as the clock ticked down to midnight. The PC women's basketball team was introduced at 11:30 p.m and then the lights went off at 11:40 as the fans on hand were treated to one last look at last year with videos of the four graduating seniors, Jason Murdock, Ruben Garces, Derrick Brown and Austin Croshere and then the 1996-97 highlight video.
The video's ended with the final countdown to midnight. With spotlight's lighting the gym and smoke filling the player's entrance, Corey Wright led the Friars to the floor with a resounding standing ovation from the crowd. Pete Gillen was the final person on the court and as the cheering died down and the lights came up he introduced the Friars. Corey Wright and John Linehan put on dribbling displays, Mark Adams and Kendrick Moore put up layups and then the dunking display started. Llewellyn Cole, Ben Perkins, Erron Maxey and Ndongo N'Diaye all slammed the ball and Jamel Thomas closed the display with a thunder dunk.
Gillen then put his team through some quick drills and ended the evening with a shooting contest between the players and the coaches and several lucky fans who he picked out of the crowd. The coaches won one and lost one. The losers did pushups with the winners laughing it up with the fans. From there the team retired for the evening, signing autographs and talking to the fans. The fun was over. There was work to get done - real practice was just a few hours away as PC hit the court at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.