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Lamar and Akin showing championship ring. Photo by Ian Fieldmann

Basketball teams honored at Retriever Madness

A line extended in front of the Event Center on Friday night as students waited with anxious anticipation for the beginning of Retriever Madness. Retriever Madness was an event meant to celebrate both the men’s and women’s basketball teams as they embark on their new seasons, which were set to tip-off on Tuesday night. To kick off this celebration, opportunities for prizes were offered to students, ranging from blowup chairs to $25,000.

As students and fans filed into the Event Center, they were greeted by men’s and women’s basketball players. The men’s players were dressed in their gold uniforms, with “Retrievers” written across the front in cursive, the uniforms that they wore when they beat the University of Virginia in their historic NCAA tournament win. The women’s team also donned uniforms set to debut for the first time this season, a black uniform with a gold “UMBC” on the front, written in a classic block-letter font. The players were giving away celebratory beads, pom poms and other spirit gear as fans made their way toward the lower bowl seating in the Event Center.

To begin the night, the lights were dimmed in the Event Center as UMBC mascot True Grit made his way toward the center of the court. Dressed in his black basketball uniform, wearing the number 50 in honor of UMBC’s 50th-anniversary celebration two years ago, music began to play. True Grit then broke out into a dance routine, eventually being joined by the dance team and cheerleaders. Fans seemed to love the performance, which consisted of a mashup of hip-hop music, as the dance team, cheerleaders and True Grit exited to thunderous applause.

A brief speech from President Freeman Hrabowski, in which he praised both men’s and women’s basketball for providing an avenue for community building at UMBC, was followed by Hrabowski attempting to pump up the crowd as he led the classic “UMBC” chant.

Following the speech, the women’s and men’s basketball teams were introduced. First, the Women’s basketball team made their way down the bleachers and onto the court as the Down ‘n’ Dirty Dawg Band played the UMBC fight song. Once the team made their way onto the court, each player was introduced to the crowd, before women’s head coach Phil Stern addressed the crowd. Stern urged fans to come out and support the basketball program this season, celebrate the new Event Center and praise Ryan Odom and the men’s basketball team for their accomplishments last season.

Next, the men’s basketball team made their way down the bleachers. Rather than going straight to the court like the women’s team, the men’s team went into the tunnel to the left of the student section. Newcomers to the team Junior-guard KJ Jackson and Freshman-guards Jack Schweitz, Jose Placer and RJ Eytle-Rock were introduced to the crowd first before the ring ceremony began. Graduates Ishmail Jabbie, KJ Maura and Jourdan Grant were presented their championship rings first, and then the active members from last year’s team. Graduate Jairus Lyles was not available for the ceremony, as he was playing in his first NBA G-League game for the Salt Lake City Stars.

To cap off the ceremonies for the night, the 2017-2018 UMBC men’s basketball team was immortalized in the banner raising ceremony. UMBC raised two banners for their accomplishments last season, one for their thrilling 65-62 victory against Vermont to win their first America East championship in a decade, and the other for their historic 74-54 win against Virginia in the NCAA tournament, becoming the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed.