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September 24, 2012With only 18 days until Oct. 12, the first formal practice opportunity for the San Diego State men's basketball team, the university and the team are preparing for Madness.
"Madness on the Mesa," that is.
Steve Fisher has traditionally opted to hold a real practice on the first day that NCAA-sanctioned team practices are allowed, instead of welcoming TV cameras and thousands of loud, cheering fans into Viejas Arena for a Midnight Madness event.
But with the Aztecs entering perhaps the most hyped basketball season in program history, things are different this year.
SDSU is holding "Madness on the Mesa" at Viejas Arena from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Oct. 12, where fans can "meet the Men's and Women's basketball team's players and coaches and enjoy a night filled with music, skill competitions, student contests and giveaways, a dunk contest, and of course 'The Show,'" according to the official website of Aztec Nights, which sponsors evening events for students on-campus.
Assistant coach Tony Bland, graduate assistant Tim Shelton and Patsy Armstrong, an SDSU Student Life Advisor, have been working together for the past several months to coordinate this event, and Bland says he's more than excited for the plans to come to fruition.
"I've wanted it for a while, ever since I was a player, and now we have an opportunity to do it," Bland said. "We would be the ones staying up late watching everyone else's Midnight Madness, so I think this is a good thing. Every person I've talked to about it is excited and can't wait to come down. I think it'll be a big thing, and if it goes well this year, Coach (Fisher) might bring it back."
The event will be free of charge, but the details of how tickets will be distributed are still being worked out. It will likely be on a first-come-first-served basis, with a good amount saved for SDSU students, according to Bland.
"We want our students there, just like at the games," Bland said. "I think we'll have a certain amount roped off for them. We haven't gone over that part yet with how the tickets will go. We're going to have The Show, the fans, the students, everybody that's excited about this season. And so are we, so we're proud to show off what we've got.
"We're still working on (the schedule of events) right now. But for sure we're going to have a dunk contest and a three-point shooting contest, and we're going to intermingle the women's and men's teams in some kind of way and let them compete against each other. We're excited to announce everybody to the fans, and it's going to be like a big pep rally back in the day."
Just like many Aztec fans, the players themselves can't wait for this event.
"They're really excited," Bland said. "Everybody on the team thinks that they're the best dunker in the country, so it'll be fun to see the dunk contest. They feed off our crowd, and for them to be there and see each other, we feed off of that too. It gets us excited, and I think that's a big part of us doing this, to boost our morale and have us and our crowd feeding off each other."
SDSU commit Dakarai Allen, along with top 2013 targets Isaac Hamilton, Darin Johnson, D'Erryl Williams and highly-touted 2014 prospects Daniel Hamilton and Jordan McLaughlin -- just to name a few -- have all confirmed with AztecSportsReport.com that they will be in attendance on Oct. 12. With so many top recruits in attendance, "Madness on the Mesa" could be a unique event that helps set SDSU apart from other west coast schools.
"It gives everyone an opportunity to see your environment and see the players in a different, fun atmosphere," Bland said. "A lot of people know that we have one of the best environments in college basketball -- in my opinion, the best -- so for them to come and see it and refresh their mind because we've been gone for so long, it's huge. There's a few people that like us just because of the environment, so for them to see that along with having a lot of fun, I think it's good for us. I think it's definitely overdue, and I'm just thankful for Coach allowing it to happen."
SDSU held a similar event in the much smaller Peterson Gym back in 2006, but the turnout wasn't very good at the time. But with support for the men's basketball team at an all-time high, Bland is hoping that things will be different this time around and that this event will be the start of an annual tradition at San Diego State.
"Coach (Fisher)'s big thing, when we did this back in Peterson Gym, was that it wasn't a good showing. But myself and Tim and Patsy did a great job of letting Coach know that it was going to be better than that."
"So with this being the first one, it's a lot of pressure and we've got to make it go well," Bland said with a laugh. "It'll be exciting just to feel the season coming with the start of practice, and basketball is almost here, and that whole thing is exciting. It'll be a lot of fun."
SDSU in the middle of individual workouts
The players are currently in the middle of individual workouts before the team can start organized activity next month.
The coaches are happy with the work that the players have been putting in this offseason, and are especially impressed with the incoming freshmen.
"They look really good," Bland said. "We don't bring guys in just to bring them in. We think these guys all have a legitimate shot to be great players for this school and leave their mark in their own ways. They're starting off well; they're learning a lot and I think they're ahead of the learning curve and we're excited with every single one of them."
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