St. John’s hosted its first annual Storm Fest, a preseason event for men’s and women’s basketball. Designed for the fans, the event was created to inspire school spirit and make the students aware of an improving men’s squad and an already great women’s squad.
As with anything, there were some successes and some disappointments. For the first Storm Fest, St. John’s should certainly be commended.
Likely, the majority of the students were drawn to the free food and carnival-like environment outside Carnesecca Arena. With the smell of barbeque and popcorn filling the general vicinity, many students donned in red ate and socialized under a big tent. Outdoor basketball nets were also set up for student shootouts.
The indoor portion of the event started with a video reel of each team’s highlights from last year. Kia Wright incited some crowd excitement with her fancy footwork and there were even a few clips resulting in a resonating “Ohh!” from the crowd as the Johnnies denied shots.
The introductions were another source of entertainment for the audience. With the lights dimmed, each player and coach was introduced. They ran out to meet and greet their fellow teammates (the men did so rather frenziedly) and each coach gave a short address to the fans.
“Bus loads of fans came to support us in our games at Penn State and that made a big difference between a win and a loss for us,” women’s coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
Stealing the show, though, was Angela Clark and Barnes Arico’s five-year-old son, Trevor, performing a surprisingly impressive dance to “Chicken Noodle Soup.”
Bringing in ESPN’s Brandon Tierney and Howie Schwab (of Stump the Schwab) was another positive. They are two guys that are familiar with college basketball and have a strong idea of how to run an event. Though Schwab’s questions were particularly easy on the night, he was good for a few laughs.
Tierney was the Master of Ceremonies and showed that he knew about Red Storm basketball. Unfortunately, there were a few occasions where it seemed like he was begging for the crowd’s enthusiasm.
It wasn’t all the crowd’s fault, though.
The shootout section of the event was too long and confusing. The rules were clear enough – three person teams made of one men’s player, one women’s player and one fan – but the execution was poor.
With several teams and officials on the court at once, it was too crowded. It was unclear how the rounds were progressing or even who was in the lead (a team featuring Larry Wright and Tiina Sten won).
The bottom line is that it could not keep the crowd enthused. To this extent, the event missed its mark. Maybe next year this part could be rethought. Do something that will keep the fans involved in it. Coaches might hate to hear it, but just for this event, you need style over substance.
How about a slam-dunk contest between a few of the players? Maybe half-court one-on-ones to let the players show off their footwork and their shot? Not only would it entertain the fans, it would help them remember some names and give them incentive to want to come back to see them during the regular season.
The scrimmage ended the event on a high note. There was a nice mix of the old and the new: veteran leader Lamont Hamilton and junior transfer Avery Patterson were both amongst the high scorers.
And it ended, fittingly, in a 51-51 tie thanks to Eugene Lawrence’s three-pointer at the buzzer.
Overall, it was a success. For a school lacking in spirit, it’s a positive step – something to build on. And hopefully, with an improving basketball team and improving events, that spirit being fostered will be able to flourish.