Sam Hellman / Scarlet Report

Rutgers Players Earns Right to Midknight Madness Under Steve Pikiell

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Midknight Madness is no longer a fun distraction but a reward after a grueling offseason for Rutgers basketball. Coach Steve Pikiell explains.

Business in the day and a party at night. First-year Rutgers basketball coach Steve Pikiell made a deal with his players to resurrect midnight madness for the Scarlet Knights.

Before the players celebrate the start of another season in an event coined “Midknight Madness,” they had to earn it in practice.

Pikiell knows all about a real midnight madness experience as a former Connecticut point guard but it could not come to Rutgers without proper offseason effort.

They've worked hard to get this opportunity,” he said. “We talked about it earlier when I got the job and I just said, 'it depends on how hard you guys work.' Players like it. I think the fans like it. We're going to have some recruits there too. I think recruits like it. We'll get our work done earlier in the day, so I think it's a win-win for everybody. I'm really excited to bring it back here to the RAC and bring it back here to Rutgers basketball.”

The anticipated main event is a slam-dunk contest where contestants include standout guard Corey Sanders and forward DeShawn Freeman, who returns from a knee injury.

Corey can really dunk,” Pikiell said. “Actually he wants to be in the three-point shooting contest as well. He's getting more and more confident. He's working hard on his three-point shot too.”

Any event involving fans, Sanders and slam dunks should be an exposure opportunity for Rutgers basketball. For Pikiell, it's the start of a massive recruiting weekend that includes dozens of visitors to Saturday night's football game against Michigan.

Any time you get to play Michigan football, the place will be packed,” Pikiell said. “We're in full swing too with our season and Midknight Madness. You combine the two, and it's a great combination. It's a lot of excitement, a lot of good things going on this weekend on this campus. … We're certainly using this weekend as a great way to get a lot of players here in-state and out of state to watch our program.”

The event begins at 7:30 p.m., and includes a skills contest, three-point contest and prizes in addition to the aforementioned dunk contest. Midknight Madness is a shared event this season between Pikiell's program and C. Vivian Stringer's Scarlet Knights women's basketball team.

She's a wealth of knowledge here at this university,” Pikiell said. “She's been very successful. Any time you get to share a court with anyone that's won as many games as she has and the program's that she's built – taking teams to Final Fours – is just exciting. Our players really like the women's players too, so there will be some great interaction.”

Rutgers began its preseason camp this week. With Big Ten Media Day set for Thursday in the nation's capital, the season begins Nov. 7 against Molloy.

Hopefully a lot of people show up and enjoy their first glimpse of Rutgers men's and women's basketball,” Pikiell said.

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