PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Midknight Madness will be the same fun event for fans that it has always been – with a little twist.
Where last year’s event was a complete show for the fans, 2012 Midknight Madness will include a live scrimmage session for fans to get a more serious look at the team.
“Last year we didn’t scrimmage at all because I didn’t think they were mature enough,” said head coach Mike Rice. “I thought they were going to end up killing each other and trying to dunk over three people. This is a more mature team and we’re going to play. We’re going to play for maybe 10 minutes and it should be a fun, exciting time.”
The event will still be a relaxed event for students, but part of that show this year will be the chance to enjoy a scrimmage in intimate conditions at the College Avenue Gymnasium. Part of that show will be a chance for students to enjoy watching Rice up close.
“You’ll see a little bit of me,” Rice said. “I’ll have to get on them at some point I’m sure. But it’s about our guys and that’s part of the reason we’re doing it in that atmosphere. I think it will be fun with the crowd right on them. Hopefully they handle it the right way.”
Midknight Madness will be a major recruiting even for Rice and Rutgers this year. It is decision time for many top 2013 prospects and a chance to build relationships with younger high-school athletes.
The intimate setting at the Barn, Rice said, is a great recruiting opportunity.
“It’s big,” Rice said. “We’ll probably have a dozen unofficial guys there. We’re going to have some real players here. It shows them what type of support we get and what type of team we have. Would I like to have it in the RAC where we sell out 8,000 seats? Sure. But it’s kind of a cozy, intense place. It’s a great atmosphere.
“This is for my team and my recruits. Me, I just want that hour to get by with nobody getting hurt. It’s good for recruiting and really good for the student body. It’s a fun chance for people to become a part of our student body.”
Midknight Madness signals the official start of practices for basketball teams across the country. With tip-off set for No. 9 against St. Peter’s, Rutgers is quickly approaching year three under Rice.
From what Rice has seen, he expects a step forward for a program looking to return to the postseason after a six-year absence.
“We see it more than everybody,” Rice said. “It’s a guarded optimism, but they’re not even close to practices from last year to this year. We had some success and we want to take that next step and become a more mature team and increase that success.”
Midknight Madness will, yet again, feature a slam-dunk contest where Jerome Seagears will look for his second straight crown. There will also be a show with dance team and cheerleaders, free shirts to the first 1,000 fans and glowsticks while supplies last.
The event starts at 9:30 and will run about an hour.
“It’s a great way, on a campus like this, just to tell everybody that basketball season is upon us,” Rice said. “We can officially start and I think that it’s another year that we can look forward to taking the next step and seeing how well our players developed over the summer. You’re going to see a different team.”