By DAN JENKINS, Staff Reporter
With a new year comes change and the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s basketball team has taken that change to heart. The Wolves of last season have transformed into the Wolverines of the future in dramatic fashion.
Fans and family got to see the Wolverines in action for the first time during two new event this weekend: the return of the annual Alumni Game and Midnight Madness featuring the Maize and Blue Scrimmage, in which players dawned brand new uniforms provided by Adidas, that hope to give the team a new edge this season.
Not only has the team followed suit with the rest of the Athletics Department in upgrading the program’s nickname to the Wolverines, but coach John Mackson and his staff have added eight new players to this year’s roster, including five true freshmen who wasted no time proving they can run with the mainstays.
During the Inaugural Midnight Madness, freshman Brandon Cole out of West Bloomfield High School stole the show during the first annual Dunk Contest on Saturday night. Cole showed off some of the athleticism that coach Mackson had purposefully added to this year’s roster.
“It feels great,” Cole said. “I’ve always got good dunks in practice, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get them out here with all of these people watching. It’s a really great feeling.”
Cole is one of five true freshmen vying for a spot in Mackson’s rotation this season. Mackson urged it was critical that he added more length and athleticism to a roster that struggled to matchup against some of the larger teams in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) last season.
Mackson and his staff helped the young Wolverines to integrate into a veteran team with the return of the Alumni game, which saw the return of the men’s basketball program’s winningest coach, Charles Turner. Turner was chosen to head the Alumni team and some of his old players on Friday night.
“For 13 years I was out here,” Turner said. “It’s like being at home for me, it feels good. All of these guys out here tonight played for me.”
The Alumni squeaked out a 90-85 overtime victory after a furious comeback attempt by the current Wolverines fell short. Included on the Alumni squad was Graham Nash, who, after being sidelined for his entire senior year last season, said it was good to get back out on the court with his old teammates.
“It’s awesome, it was so much fun,” Nash said. “The freshman did well, but so did the guys that I played with. We old guys had to have a little spirit out there; a little bit of pride.”
The weekend’s festivities go beyond the final scores of the scrimmages, Mackson explained. The events helped to bring the team, the program, and the university a little closer together.
“Our guys went door-to-door at the Union to get students out here tonight and I think it paid off,” Mackson said. “It opens a door between the past and the present. We really need to open that door because there’s a lot that we can learn from the guys that were here in the past about where we’re coming from and where we need to get to.”
Where coach Mackson and the Wolverines hope to get may not be so far off. With an infusion of new players and a new identity, the team looks to waste no time in shaking things up in the conference this season.
The Wolverines will open the season as they travel to take on the Roosevelt University Lakers (Chicago, IL) on November 4. The team returns to Dearborn for the home opener against the University of Saint Francis Cougars on November 9.
All students with a university ID get free admission to all home games, so come show your Wolverine Pride this season.