|Basketball Buzz Builds at University of St. Thomas|
The University of St. Thomas men’s basketball team has imagined the scene for its season-opening game for months. They will be donning the red and gold home uniforms at 7 p.m. on Oct. 31, in front of an enthralled crowd eager for the school’s first basketball game in more than 20 years.
During the rare days the players and coaches manage to ponder other endeavors, classmates, faculty and staff constantly remind the players about the first basketball game.
The Celts have not fielded a men’s basketball team since 1985. This time basketball is the latest addition to UST’s intercollegiate athletic renewal, which began with volleyball in 2006 and continued with men’s soccer in 2007.
UST Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach Todd Smith acknowledged there is a buzz around campus. He expects to challenge the 800-seat capacity of the Jerabeck Athletic Center gymnasium for the season opener against Wiley College.
“Because we’ve had so much interest we’re going to have to cap (admission); we might not be able to let everybody in,” Smith said. “People are really excited about the Oct. 31 date. I expect a great crowd and a lot of electricity. I think it’s going to be something, hopefully, that we can build on for the rest of the year.”
General tickets for $3 will be on sale beginning Oct. 14. Game day tickets will be available at the Jerabeck box office beginning at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free for faculty, staff and students.
The anticipated night will mark the return of Celts basketball, a fact that is not lost on the players. In addition to attending a university recognized for its academics, the chance to have a place in Celts history was a draw.
“That’s all it came down to really,” said freshman Caleb Williams. “(It was a) first-year program, Coach wanted me here and I just wanted to continue playing my basketball career. This was the place to do it, not to mention UST is an outstanding academic institution.”
Fellow freshman Barrett Lauer said college basketball was not in his plans before he heard about UST, but decided it was the right situation.
“I was planning just to go to a big state university,” Lauer said. “The opportunity to play basketball and start something new really caught my eye. Definitely when I came and talked to Coach Smith it really convinced me that this would be a good opportunity.”
The team has been together since late August and started official practice Sept. 26. Smith said he has been impressed with the group’s progress considering the system is new to everyone.
“We’re all getting along very well and practice has been good,” freshman Bryan Kaase said. “We just have to wait until our first scrimmage (Oct. 21) to see how we actually play against somebody else. It looks good so far.”
Despite a mix of nine freshmen, six transfer students and two players who were previously UST students, the players have developed camaraderie while sharing an experience.
“I think we have a pretty good chemistry,” said Travis Lampley, who transferred to UST from Stephen F. Austin State University. “We don’t have any egos because there wasn’t anybody in the basketball program before us. We’re all starting fresh.”
For coaches, players and everyone associated with the University, Oct. 31 will be a night to remember.