The Saint Leo University’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Teams introduced their players in the annual Moonlight Madness event. At the event, which took place on Oct. 15, students who participated at the moonlight madness got access to a variety of action-oriented activities such as dancing and dunk contests. The Players and coaches got introduced and everyone got their moment to shine.
“Moonlight madness was pretty cool because the whole crowd was involved and we had a really cool host who was energetic and kept a great atmosphere throughout the entire event,” said Anthony Deleva, a junior with a major in Sport Business.
In addition to the great show, the students were able to participate in contests, got free moonlight madness T-shirts, enjoy free pizza and had the chance to win multiple prizes in a raffle.
“It was definitely worth going to because it was a fun environment and we got to see the basketball players that are new to the team. The men’s team had a mini scrimmage, which was really cool. They were doing a lot of dunks, so it was really exciting and got everyone pumped for the upcoming basketball season,” Deleva said.
For the first game of the season, the Men’s Team travels to the place where their season ended last year. The Lions will get their rematch against the University of Alabama Huntsville which knocked them out of the NCAA tournament in early March of 2016. The game will be held on Nov. 12 in Huntsville, Alabama. On Nov. 13 the Lions will play against the University of North Alabama, who is hosting the NCAA Regional Tournament in 2017.
“Going toe-to-toe with Ala.-Huntsville again, and kicking off the year with them, will be a good test to open the season. Last year, we won the first meeting in overtime (93-90) at home and had to face them in the NCAA regional, with an unfavorable outcome, but we are aiming to right that this year,” said Men’s head Coach Vince Alexander about their schedule.
A few days after kicking off the season, the team will be facing their first SSC competitor with a game against Florida Southern College. Nov. 19 will be the first home game against the University of Puerto Rico, before having four more home games.
“I am excited about this upcoming season; we have an aggressive schedule, but I think we’re up for the challenge. The Conference Challenge is a great thing because not only does it give you two extra games early in the season, but it provides match-ups against quality opponents. It allows us to get a read on where we lie in the region at the beginning of the season, knowing we will be playing the teams we will be facing in March,” Alexander said.
The team can be pretty optimistic this season, since almost all players from last year return to improve even more. With two incoming freshmen and a few new recruits, the Lions line up for bigger challenges this year.
“The team is looking imposing. We have added many talented guys to our team that truly balance us. The coaching staff has recruited sheer size, skillful guards, and just overall great people to the team. There is a ton of raw potential that is being molded into something special. Not only are we looking good, we are also having a fun and memorable time during the process. I hope that people are just as excited as us for the journey ahead,” said Trail Pierce, who is a senior from Pittsville, Wisconsin.
This year will mark the last year for multiple players who will graduate in the spring of 2017. One of them is Marcus Dewberry, who received many honors over the last years for being one of the top scorers in the conference and the country.
On Oct. 6, Dewberry was named a preseason DII All-American by the Bulletin and was named the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year for the 2015-’16 basketball season. In addition to that, he received an NABC all-south district team selection for the previous year.
Other seniors are Elijah Blackman, Necdet Gurkan, Justin Satchell, and Trail Pierce, who is an eligibility Junior because he had a redshirt year as a sophomore. However, he is still facing the mixed emotions that every student-athlete knows when heading into their last season.
“For myself, it’s a bitter-sweet feeling of overall excitement. It’s been a journey that is every bit of memorable. For any sport, I believe that the game is run on emotion(s) – Joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, anticipation, and overwhelming appreciation. To really reach the pinnacle in each of these feelings really has allowed me to understand myself on a deeper level. This allows for my excitement to take over and to not only see what this upcoming season holds for us, but for my future after my collegiate athletic days are over,” said Pierce.
It will be an interesting year with many challenges in a Conference and Region that is extremely successful in the sport of Basketball. The students are excited and ready to cheer on their team on the home court. “Coach Vince Alexander in the previous year, brought a new era of excellence to his team. He was able to help improve the team, making it nationally recognized; as such, he has a good shot to make the final hour for Division II Basketball.
“I believe Coach Alexander and his coaching staff has brought in a style of coaching that is very effective when players are able to buy in. The idea is to work hard at whatever you do – pass or fail, strides will be made in the positive direction if one can honestly say that they have given it their all. It’s crazy to think about how much more you can give when someone is successfully able to bring that out of you. I believe this is a necessary skill that I will bring with me my entire life,” said Pierce.