For the first time in Yale history, the basketball programs squeezed Midnight Madness between Friday and Saturday.

And Yale was not alone. Midnight Madness is traditionally celebrated across the country by top basketball programs as a homecoming for all students marking the moment NCAA rules officially allow basketball practice to begin.

But with strobe lights flashing, college flags waving, and an enormous inflatable bulldog sitting at one corner of the John J. Lee Amphitheater, this was no ordinary practice.

Throughout the two-hour session, a disc jockey spun turntables on the scorers’ table. Attendees received T-shirts reading “Old Blue,” “Bulldogs” and “Elis,” and seniors got baseball caps emblazoned with their class year.

At 11 p.m., the event began with student contests: a residential college shootout, the “Midnight Madness Game Show,” a fraternity wing-eating contest, a free-throw competition for parents, and a 3-point competition, whose winner was awarded a Sony Playstation 2.

Without a home football game, Midnight Madness was the main sports event of Parents’ Weekend’s.

The raucous crowd of close to 1,500 people joined the amphitheater’s scoreboards in counting down the seconds as the clock approached 12 a.m.

When midnight struck, the lights dimmed and players from both the men’s and women’s teams ran out from under the inflatable bulldog and were introduced by class.

“It got us really excited,” women’s team captain Maria Smear ’03 said. “We’re looking forward to having a great season like the boys did last year.”

Considerable applause greeted injured men’s players Josh Hill ’04 and T.J. McHugh ’03 when they appeared on crutches, but the crowd saved the loudest ovation for Ime Archibong ’03, captain of last year’s men’s team.

Following the introductions, men’s coach James Jones addressed the crowd to chants of “Coach!”

“How ’bout those Bulldogs?” Jones said.

Jones thanked the crowd for its support last season before unveiling Yale’s 2001-02 Ivy League Championship banner to the crowd’s delight.

“We’ll put another one right back up there,” Jones said.

In mock warm-up fashion, players began lay-up lines with the men’s team on one side of the court and the women’s team on the other. Many of the men’s players threw down crowd-pleasing dunks, ranging from two-handed reverses to double-pump and tomahawk jams.

A 3-point shootout for the women’s team went to forward Tory Mauseth ’05.

The second players-only event was the “two-ball” competition, in which a men’s player and a women’s player teamed up together and alternated shots from various spots on the court. Lindsay Page ’05 and men’s captain Chris Leanza ’03 won the competition.

But the final and most anticipated event of the night was the men’s slam dunk competition. Two rounds of high-flying jams charmed the audience.

“I liked the beginning when they gave out stuff and the end when they dunked,” Michael G. Ho ’03 said.

And the fans weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves.

“The players had more of a good time than the fans,” Archibong said.

Among the dunk contest’s highlights were Edwin Draughan’s ’05 acrobatic put-back of his own missed dunk and Paul Vitelli ’04 removing his shirt before catching the basketball and slamming it through.

But Archibong again drew the loudest cheers and brought the crowd to its feet when he unleashed two fantastic slams, one an alley-oop to himself while leaping over a ball rack and the other a ferocious windmill dunk.

“You’d be surprised what you can do when you’ve got 1,000 people cheering you on,” Archibong said.

Similar to the end of a regular practice session, the teams huddled as Midnight Madness drew to a close — but not before one final contest.

A student was selected from the crowd to shoot one half-court shot in hopes of winning an all-expenses paid spring break vacation to anywhere in the world.

He missed.

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