Midnight Basketball Scores Big at UAlbany
By Greta Petry (March 4,
Tim Ferguson, a senior, and Melissa Nappi, a junior, are part of the Midnight Basketball League at UAlbany
It's Friday night on the UAlbany campus.
Contrary to the Princeton Review, not everyone is out partying.
In fact, if you one of the 96 members of the Midnight Basketball League, you are likely to be suiting up to play one of the three games of the night.
Senior Doneilous King of Utica, 22, led the league in scoring last year. This academic year he approached Mike Jaromin in Student Activities to see how the league was coming along.
"Mike told me we may not have a league if we have no one to run it," recalled King. "I said I'll run it if you give me a staff of volunteers, because
I want to play too."
The result is an expanded Midnight Basketball League (MBL). MBL is a bit of a misnomer. When it originated about six years ago, the league did play until midnight, but game times have started earlier and earlier, so that now the league actually plays from 7:30 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Games are held at the Physical Education Building Gym, and will move to the Recreation and Convocation Center (RACC) for the playoffs. Each team is made up of 10 male and two female players, and the rules call for the female players to play at least three to five minutes per game. There are eight teams: every team has a coach; every player has a jersey (which he or she bought for $5); and each game has two referees.
Vice President for Student Affairs James P. Doellefeld said, "Midnight basketball is a prime activity that takes the chill out of the air in mid-winter."
League organizer King tried out for the UAlbany basketball team last year but didn't make it. "So what I am trying to do is create the same type of environment I would want to play in before an enthusiastic audience," he said. "The Midnight Basketball League gives all the students in the league a chance to feel like they are varsity athletes. They take it very seriously while having fun, and it is a very competitive league."
After agreeing to organize the league, King said he pulled his staff together to figure out "how do we fulfill the mission, providing a positive alternative using basketball to bring people together."
The result is a positive way to offer students a great experience that is an alternative to going out.
King, who is a guard, took his post as league organizer in mid-October. "On average we have about three games a night, and we get about 150 spectators a night. On Unity Weekend, Jan. 28 and 29, we had 350 spectators on Friday night and 250 on Saturday night. Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Christine Bouchard was there on Friday and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Carson Carr, Jr. was there on Saturday night. There was a brief introduction, complete with a vocalist singing the national anthem.
"One of the new features we added was half-time performances with a choir, step team or dance team. By bringing them out and having them perform, it brings other spectators out. Even if you don't want to watch basketball you might want to watch them perform," said King. "We even have a free throw contest. We just do different things; we don't want it to get boring. Sometimes we give out prizes."
King has known MBL player Tim Ferguson, 21, a UAlbany senior from New Hartford, near Utica, since junior high school. Ferguson, who has played basketball since he was 3, is also manager of the UAlbany women's basketball team. While his role in the intramural league
is primarily playing basketball, he also helps out by coordinating officials, statistics, and managing events.
Ferguson, a sociology major and psychology major who plans to pursue a graduate degree in secondary education, said King has done an outstanding job of promoting the games. He added, "One difference from past MBL seasons is the student spectator support, and it is vital that we accommodate the crowds with bleachers each weekend."
"For a lot of the guys who play and some of the girls, they probably could have played at the Division II or III level. But with Division I being so scholarship-oriented, it gives us an opportunity to play out our collegiate basketball dreams in front of a crowd," said Ferguson, whose father coaches a junior varsity team at New York Mills High School. "I enjoy teaching but I want to coach basketball too," said Tim. "I've gotten my feet wet helping at the JV level, and I look forward to getting a head coaching position at a high school some day."
He continued, "The Midnight Basketball League games preoccupy players and spectators with a positive thing. Overall, there is more to life than going out and partying constantly. It's your choice, but basketball allows you a different chance to explore something else. Basketball is a common denominator - it's a great way to get people out together doing something."
Melissa Nappi, 19, a junior from Merrick, N.Y., joined the league after tryouts in December 2004. Nappi, a biology major, considers herself premed, and has been playing basketball since the fourth grade in a town league, the North Bellmore North Merrick Basketball League. "My dad was my coach then and he taught me to play," she said. Her assessment of the UAlbany intramural league: "Midnight Basketball League is a great place to go and hang out. The games are competitive and fun to watch. It's a great way to spend a Friday and Saturday night. Also, it's free, which everyone knows is great for college students!"
Freshman Christina Padgett, 19, joined the league after seeing fliers for it around campus. Padgett, of Elmira, N.Y., is a biology major with a minor in chemistry.
Padgett, like Nappi, has been playing since the fourth grade. She played year-round for about six years in travel and school leagues.
"I think that the Midnight Basketball League is a lot of fun," Padgett said. "You can get a good workout playing a great sport and I would choose that over going out any time."