Bulldogs Throwdown in Downtown

Approximately 3,000 fans congregated on East Main Street in downtown Starkville on Friday night to witness a night of festivities with the second annual Maroon Madness.

Building off of last year's event, the marketing department at Mississippi State did not disappoint with another innovation in athletics.

"We sat around a table and thought about ways we could put men's and women's basketball out to the community," said Assistant AD/Director of Marketing Chad Thomas. "We wanted to do something a little bit different, something unique."

He, along with coaches and city officials, worked together to make this event come to fruition. In cooperation with Starkville's annual fall festival, the group wanted to create a family friendly environment.

"We approached both Rick, Vic, and the city of Starkville about having Maroon Madness in conjunction with Pumpkinpalooza," Thomas said.

The night consisted of the unveiling of the new uniforms by Adidas, which incorporated the dog bone and introduced a lighter material. Additionally, the women's team put on a display in a 3 on 3 against Mississippi State students. The students quickly seemed to have regretted their decision on playing once they saw the talent and skill level of their competition. But both groups appeared to have enjoyed the three-minute game, as did all the fans in attendance.

Men's players Craig Sword, Wendell Lewis, and Roquez Johnson partook in a dunk contest in which Sword somehow came up victorious through the consolation bracket. Freshman big man Gavin Ware provided the entertainment for the evening with his frequent break dances and outside shooting in the HORSE contest with Jalen Steele.

Men's Coach Rick Ray, along with women's basketball Coach Vic Schaefer, were also both enthusiastic about this new tradition.

"Well it's a great environment; the buzz at State right now is really incredible. Tonight is a great environment for our kids, and it's a great reward for them because they've been working awfully hard," said Schaefer. "Just the opportunity to get out here and meet everybody in the community is awfully nice."

Coach Rick Ray and his team shared in the excitement.

"I think Chad and our Media Relations people did a great job with bringing Maroon Madness out here to Pumpkinpalooza," he said. "You had a built-in environment; people are coming out here to downtown. It was a great idea."

Both coaches also viewed this as a unique recruiting opportunity. The uniforms, outdoor environment, and football contest against Tennessee all heightened the visits of recruits.

"I think anything kids can put their hands on and their eyes on makes an impact," said Schaefer. "We're appreciative of Adidas and for being one of their top schools across the country. They take awfully good care of us."

Ray added, "I think the big thing about it is that recruits see that we are getting new gear all the time; gear is a big thing whether it be Adidas or anything else. Recruits see that, but more than anything they see a built-in audience of people coming out and supporting our basketball team."

For the current players, the festivities do not last long. Both teams will soon get to work in preparation for the season.

Schaefer says his focus is on the attitude with which the Lady Bulldogs will play.

"I just want to develop some toughness about our team," said the first-year coach. "We can always out-tough people, we can always out-effort them; those are the things I'm really concerned with."

Coach Ray says his team shares in that goal.

"I'm really excited about this opportunity; our guys have been doing a great job in individual workouts and the skill workouts. This is the first time our guys get a chance to go against each other 5 on 5. I know our guys our excited and ready to go."

This year's men's basketball team faces many challenges throughout the entire schedule starting with games at Troy and then the University of North Carolina in the Maui Invitational.

"I think our guys have a great camaraderie right now; they feel good about each other. They like being around each other, and they feel like they have a true team going in," Ray said. "They've been through some adversity already so that always tends to bode well for those guys."

On Maui he stated, "The biggest thing is it's an exciting thing to go out to Maui; not very many kids get a chance to go out and play in the Maui Invitational."

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