By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Tonight, basketball fans at Concord University will be setting their watches ahead three hours temporarily — to celebrate an early midnight.
“Midnight Madness,” a free preview of the Mountain Lion men’s basketball team for students and the general public, begins at 9 p.m. in the Carter Center in Athens.
Throughout the event, tickets given to attendees will be drawn to create a pool of fans to compete with each other for various prizes, including gift cards, according to the CU sports information office.
Team members will engage in a three-point shooting contest and a dunk competition, to be judged by CU athletics director Kevin Garrett, former hoops coach Steve Cox and women’s basketball alumna Holly Bibb McBride.
A brief intrasquad scrimmage will conclude the evening.
Kent McBride, beginning his third season as Concord head coach, said, “What we really try to do is to introduce our fan base to the team and get the student body involved, plus we want to tap into our great support in the area. We want to get the excitement going.”
“It’s a great chance to meet the team and to put a face with a name.”
He said “about 60 percent of the evening will involve the fans. There will be a lot of free stuff.”
The team, which went 16-11 last season, has put in hour after hour of preparation for the new season already.
“This is probably been the best pre-season we have had in the three years that I’ve been here (as coach),” McBride said. “The collective dedication of this team is really remarkable. ...
“These guys are not afraid of hard work. On the court and off the court, they have encompassed every aspect of what it takes to excel as a student-athlete. All the things beyond basketball that you need to do to be a champion, they have accepted that.”
The coach said he is “really, really excited” about the newcomers to the program.
“Just as a unit, they have really fit into the program,” he said. “They have accepted standards set by others that have gone before them. The best thing they do is, they expect it of each other. It’s said the best teams coach themselves.”
Two weeks from today, the Mountain Lions will be in Huntington for an exhibition game with the Marshall Thundering Herd. The regular season begins Nov. 8, with Concord taking on Fayetteville (N.C.) State in a tipoff classic in Winston-Salem, N.C.
For its first home game, Concord plays county neighbor Bluefield State on Nov. 18 in Athens. The two teams will also meet on Dec. 16 in Bluefield.
The Mountain Lions’ first encounter in the new Mountain East Conference is scheduled for Nov. 23 at home against Notre Dame College of Ohio.
McBride, a former Concord point guard, is 33-23 in his coaching tenure at CU.