Prepare for the Mercer Madness


Image: Mercer Marketing & Communications

Men’s Basketball team preparing for the 2015-2016 season.

Sophie Peel, Staff Writer

Bears’ basketball is just around the corner.  

Mercer Madness, beginning Oct. 16, will serve as a preview. The men’s and women’s teams will take the floor in exhibition match ups.

The event, now in its second year, serves to bring together fans and players. Since the Bears’ upset over Duke in the 2013 National Tournament, Mercer’s basketball program has surged. With a group of young and fresh talent, combined with the vigor of loyal Mercer fans, this year’s program kickoff will be energized.

The event will offer free food, t-shirts for every student that comes and stays the whole time, friendly competitions between athletes and fans, and a dunking contest. The 2014 dunking contest winner, Ike Nwamu, was featured on ESPN’s Top Five Plays of the Week.

Men’s head coach Bob Hoffman spoke about the importance of the event in familiarizing fans with the student athletes.

“It’s a time that we get excited about men’s and women’s basketball trying to get students to understand who our student athletes are on the team,” Hoffman said.

Last year, 700 student fans flooded into Hawkins Arena to show their support.

Though the players are excited to play for the event, they expressed that their motive is to allow the fans to have a good time and get to know them as people, and not just as the athletes that represent Mercer on a national level.

“We hate to disappoint our fans. We love them, they love us. Being at a small school, it’s a great relationship to have,” red-shirt junior Lawrence Brown said.

Playing on a Division I athletic team is an intimate experience, bringing athletes together with grueling practices and endless hours spent in the gym.

Jibri Bryan, in his last season as a Bear, says the team is like family to him.

“It feels like a family. It makes practices and all the hard days go by a lot easier,” Bryan said.

Though Mercer is a fairly small school, the school spirit that rises in these type of events makes Mercer seem larger than it is.

“It helps in every way, shape and form on campus to let everybody know that the basketball season is beginning,” Coach Hoffman said.

Head women’s coach Susie Gardner is looking forward to the event, but she hopes that the fans that show up to Mercer Madness will translate to turnout at women’s games once competition season starts.

“Our kids have never heard [the chant] ‘I believe that we will win’ with streamers flying. I hope in some way [the fans] transfer into the season,” Gardner said

Gardner noted that the bulk of her team is newcomers, either freshmen or transfers.

“I love this group. They are very, very hard workers. Our freshmen have brought a lot of energy to practices,” Gardner said, but she also expressed that the team’s identity is a mystery.

“It’s gonna take us a minute to figure out who we are,” Gardner said.

Sydni Means, a sophomore, explained that although her team is young, it only allows for more growth and excitement.”

“We have a whole new team this season, and everyone is excited for Mercer Madness as well as the season to start.”