It’s back. The college basketball season has once again arrived in the Queen City.
The Charlotte 49ers men’s and women’s basketball teams officially began their 2012-13 season Thursday night at Basketball Madness in Halton Arena.
As soon as the doors opened at 8:45 p.m., students rushed to claim their seats, filling up the majority of the lower bowl of Halton Arena.
Madness began when UNC Charlotte grad, and Columbia, S.C. meteorologist, Garrett Bedenbaugh came out dancing with mascot Norm the Niner to South Korean hit, “Gangnam Style.”
While the night was meant for both basketball teams, Charlotte took the opportunity to also acknowledge some members of the inaugural football team, who ran a designed play on the basketball court. Jokingly, Charlotte 49ers football coach Brad Lambert said, “I’m glad you guys didn’t fumble. We don’t do that.”
To transition between football and basketball, Lambert also added, “tonight is all about basketball.”
As soon as both the men’s and women’s teams and coaches were introduced, players from both teams performed a choreographed dance with the dance team, The Gold Dusters.
Following the choreographed dance, players then took part in a skills challenge that included dribbling between cones, shooting and riding a tricycle down the sideline.
While the first half of Basketball Madness was entertaining, the fun would pick up a notch as freshman forward Darion Clark, Willie Clayton and sophomore guard Terrence Williams participated in a slam dunk contest.
The “surprise dunker,” senior guard Colby Lewis, surprised the crowd when he came sprinting off the stage, dunking on a toy basketball hoop in the middle of the court.
The Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball team returns three starters and eight players from last year’s 13-17 team, including preseason second-team All Atlantic 10 senior Chris Braswell and preseason A-10 all-defensive team selection Pierria Henry.
Charlotte will open the season in an exhibition game against Pfeiffer, Nov. 1, at Halton Arena.
The 49ers will begin their regular season play in a game against Charleston Southern, Nov. 9, slated for a 6 p.m. tipoff.
The Charlotte 49ers women’s team returns all five starters and nine players from last year’s team that made it to the WNIT, before falling to Wake Forest in the opening round. Charlotte will be led by seniors Jennifer Hailey, Jai Forney and Amanda Dowe.
Charlotte will face Johnson C. Smith in an exhibition game on Nov. 3 at Halton Arena. Just one week later, the 49ers will open their regular season play with a home game against North Carolina Central, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.
“I thought the energy and electricity in the building was really great tonight,” said women’s basketball coach Cara Consuegra, who is entering her second season with the 49ers.
Women’s hoops are in pursuit to make an 11th straight postseason appearance this season. While expectations are high for the 49er women, it became even higher with the announcement this week that Full Court Magazine announced that Charlotte was one of the Top 10 non-BCS programs to watch this year. The 49ers are the highest listed Atlantic 10 school among the group, which lists 20 in all.