The necessary grind for gameday at the Stu

Men's Head Coach Will Wade is off to an undefeated record at the Stu, 4-0. Photo by Julie Tripp
Men's Head Coach Will Wade is off to an undefeated record at the Stu, 4-0. Photo by Julie Tripp
Men’s Head Coach Will Wade is off to an undefeated record at the Stu, 4-0. Photo by Julie Tripp

As the first basketball game approached, many students, alumni and VCU fans braced themselves for the first game of the season on Nov. 6 against the University of California (Penn.) at the Siegel Center under the new Head Coach Will Wade, his new staff and the six new players. Much anticipation awaited the fans, but also the staff preparing for the first game of a brand new season with many changes.

Wade is the most prominent switch up to the season. Many VCU basketball fans want to form their first opinions about him, but the most important opinion about him comes from the basketball team.

“Coach Wade brings a blue-collar mentality to us. I would describe us under him as brought in, success driven, and hard-working,” said junior point guard Torey Burston.

Fans may not think about what it takes to make a game day run to its full potential. A lot goes into pregame preparation that most fans at the Stu are unlikely to notice.

At 3 p.m., the pregame preparations are intense for those setting up for the game at the Stu and from the actual team. Senior leader and shooting guard Melvin Johnson shared his extensive pregame preparations.

“I usually eat a big breakfast, try and really focus in class and not think about the game. Then I head to shoot around, after shoot around I head to pregame meal,” Johnson said. “I call my mom and talk to get my mind off of basketball, then I come to the arena two hours early to do a few shooting drills then finally start to think about the game.”

As for the facilities, the staff arrives about two-and-a-half hours prior to the doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and prepares the tables and chairs. These tables and chairs are placed throughout the lobby for vendors and information, in the auxiliary gym, parlors and board rooms.

After setting up the equipment, employees run through a risk-management checklist for the game. That checklist includes checking the railings to make sure everything is sturdy and screwed in, checking to make sure that all cords from the camera crew are secure and in place. They also make sure of the padding on the scorer’s tables and under the baskets are secure. This is major because many head injuries are prevented by having those barriers.

At 5:30 p.m., after making sure that everything is ready to go, the doors are open and it is the hour-and-a-half countdown until tip-off. These next 30 minutes are essential. At this time, people are beginning to enter the arena, getting their first impressions for the game, and things are most likely to go wrong in this time. The donors and season ticket holders are especially catered to as much of the basketball’s team success relates to them, so the clubs that provide food and beverages for these people have to be perfect.

7 p.m. has finally arrived and it is the moment that everyone has been waiting on, tip-off. The game is underway and everyone is enjoying themselves, but the work for the staff is still not over. Turnover and clean-up for halftime is still required for each of the clubs, plus two more for food and beverages for donors and season ticket holders. Everything has to look like it has never been touched.

By about 8:15 p.m., it is halftime. The clubs and the lobby are full once again, and so is the lobby. People are enjoying food and beverages and continuing to talk about the game and what they think about the team so far.

“We tried to make a statement that we were still good, but we are trying to focus on ourselves and not what other people say,” Johnson said. “It was important that we came out and played well because of the fans, but it was more of a learning experience for us.”

The Rams went on to defeat Cal. (Penn.) 96-60, as the inaugural exhibition match was a success. The gameday atmosphere was electric and the players took note as their preparation in the offseason was for good use.

As for the facilities staff, the hard work is just getting started as complete breakdown and transformation of the Stu is required for the event on Saturday. All of the tables that had to be placed out have to be put up, all of the food and beverages have to be put away, both baskets at the ends of the arena floor have to be put away and the auxiliary gym has to be cleared — the daily perils of gameday.

Article by: Cameran Garland, Contributing Writer

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