Fans Enjoy Festivities of Midnight Madness

FAYETTEVILLE -- Things went mad in Bud Walton Arena long before the strike of 12 on Friday night.

Prior to Arkansas' men's and women's basketball teams taking the floor at 12:01 a.m. for their first practices of the season at Midnight Madness, several area fans young and old alike took part in the pre-midnight festivities.

There were grade-schoolers racing the length of the court trying to make layups in size 18 basketball shoes and a couple pork-bellied fans struggling to fit into the oversized basketball jerseys.

If Arkansas men's coach Stan Heath really wants to create some crowd noise this season, he may want to consider filling the lower levels with elementary school-aged kids and letting KHBS/KHOG sports anchor Aaron Peters whip them into a frenzy.

The youngest of Razorback fans warmed up their lungs for a rare night past bedtime with a crescendo of screams that would shake the nerves of even the players from Kentucky or Ole Miss.

Heath has been waiting seven long months for this ever since the end of the 2003-04 season in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last March.

"It's been a summer where I couldn't wait until it ends," he said.

The inaugural Razorback Alumni 3-on-3 Tournament brought back former players like Clyde Fletcher, Larry Satchell and Ron Huery, a former student manager and even Jason Gilbert, who quit the team in 2000 and drew a smattering of boos from the vicinity of the student section when he was introduced.

Jan Frank unofficially came the farthest for Midnight Madness traveling from Coeurd'alene, Idaho, to watch the Razorbacks' first practice with her son, Kyle Frank ,and his wife, Melea.

With a nonperishable food item the only price of admission, the Franks cashed in some cans of tuna after Jan decided against her first idea.

"I was going to use Twinkies," she joked.

Kyle Frank said he was most interested in seeing Razorbacks' newcomers like 6-foot-10 forward Darian Townes, 6-foot-7 forward Charles Thomas and 7-footer Steven Hill.

"I want to see these young big guys get out here and do something," he said.

Fourteen-year-old Will Mullen of Green Forest, was also eager to see the new big men.

"They'll get better when they get older," Mullen said. "If (sophomore) Ronnie Brewer sticks around, they'll be better in the future. The Branson kid (Hill), I'm expecting something from him."

For Arkansas' lone senior Mike Jones, seeing a few thousand enthusiastic fans was a welcome sight after playing all summer and fall in front of nothing but a sea of red seats in Walton Arena.

"It always gets your juices flowing," Jones said. "We've been coming out here and playing against some Caspers. It's nice to finally see some souls.

"It always feels good."

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