Midnight Madness Set for Friday

Travis Hansen returns for his senior season after leading BYU in scoring and rebounding last year. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The seventh annual Midnight Madness, celebrating the beginning of the 2002-03 men's and women's basketball seasons, takes place Friday evening at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Cougar hoops fans will get their first look at this year's BYU men's and women's basketball teams at the late-night event being emceed by Chunga and Mister of 107.5 FM. The highly popular Midnight Madness includes a variety of contests and giveaways for fans before the BYU men's and women's teams take to the court for the first time this season.

Admission to Midnight Madness is free. Doors open at 10 p.m. but seating is limited to 5,000. Fans are encouraged to arrive on time as several hundred fans have been turned away in recent years due to the limited seating.

The theme for this year's Midnight Madness is "Blues Brothers and Sisters" based on the efforts of BYU athletics to encourage fans to wear blue to athletic events. Contests, promotions and giveaways for the fans in attendance begin at 10:45 p.m. leading up to the introduction of the teams.

The teams will participate in a two-ball competition, teaming members from the men's and women's teams together similar to the popular NBA all-star weekend contest. The men's team will put on a slam dunk exhibition prior to the women's team scrimmage. The men's team will cap off the night with its scrimmage.

"This is an exciting event for our players and for the fans, especially the students," BYU men's basketball coach Steve Cleveland said. "We really appreciate the support we receive from our fans. We have the longest home winning streak in the nation and our fans have a lot to do with that. The students are great and Midnight Madness is a fun way to introduce our team and let them have some fun."

This year's men's team will be among the favorites to win the Mountain West Conference and earn an NCAA tournament berth. In addition to returning starters Travis Hansen, Mark Bigelow and Jared Jensen, the men's team adds some talented newcomers in junior college transfers Rafael Araujo, Kevin Woodberry and Luiz Lemes along with Wisconsin transfer Ricky Bower and Weber State transfer Jake Shoff. Freshman Austin Ainge also enters his first year at BYU after returning from a mission.

"Midnight Madness is a great event for students," BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins said. "There is always a lot of excitement and some fun interaction. Our players are looking forward this season to build upon our success of last year. We will have a fun team for people to watch and we hope to have a great year."

The women's team is ranked preseason No. 23 by Women's Basketball News Service. All-American senior guard Erin Thorn, who led the Cougars to the school's first NCAA Sweet 16 last year, was named second-team preseason All-America by the news service. Last year, BYU finished the season with a No. 17 national ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll. Other top players returning in addition to Thorn are forwards Jennifer Leitner and Danielle Cheesman.

"Midnight Madness is the season-opening party for our basketball teams and a lot of fun for the fans," Tony Jewkes, BYU marketing director, said. "It gives the fans a chance to get to know the players and coaches while participating in some fun contests, promotions and giveaways."

Midnight Madness will conclude at approximately 12:30 a.m.