The annual celebration of Blue and Orange Madness took over Firestone Fieldhouse on Oct. 6.
The night began as Pepperdine PA announcer Asher Low rallied the crowd to welcome the men’s and women’s basketball teams to the floor. The festivities included a “shooting stars” challenge, half-court shots for tuition, a brand-new three-on-three scrimmage, a dunk contest and performances from the cheerleading team, Pepperdine’s Step Team and RND dance.
“I’m excited to get student engagement, fan engagement,” junior guard Houston Mallette said. “[It was a] great night. Obviously, President Gash hit that half-court shot, which was awesome — that he hit it and that student got tuition.”
The energy for the night was set from the beginning, as President Jim Gash drained a half-court shot to pay for a semester’s worth of tuition for one lucky student, sophomore Johann Luna.
“I feel great. I feel on top of the world right now,” Luna said.
Firestone Fieldhouse immediately erupted as the ball swished through the net, celebrating Luna’s lucky night.
“It felt deeply gratifying to see my shot find the bottom of the net,” President Jim Gash wrote in a Oct. 17 email to the Graphic. “I am thrilled for Johan and gratified that it will ease his tuition burden for his time at Pepperdine.”
Blue and Orange Festivities: Shooting Stars Challenge, 3 on 3, Slam Dunks and Dances
Following the half-court shot, the night transitioned into the Shooting Stars Challenge. The competition consisted of two teams of three players. The team that made a layup, free throw, three-pointer and half-court shot the fastest won.
The competition ultimately came to a close when sophomore guard Hailey Johnson banked in a half-court shot for the win.
Next up was the three-on-three scrimmage that consisted of two women’s team members and one men’s team member.
“Team blue” included junior forward Maggie Vick, freshman forward Holly Griffiths and freshman center Martin Gumwel. Representing “team orange” was junior guard Addi Melone, freshman forward Jorynn Ross and freshman forward John Squire.
This was the first time this event was included in Blue and Orange Madness, and those in attendance saw the game between “Team Blue” and “Team Orange” get down to the wire.
To conclude the basketball festivities, Low introduced the dunk contest participants, which included the following: junior guard Michael Ajayi, sophomore forward Jalen Pitre, freshman guard Curtis Williams and freshman guard David Mager. The contest was also judged by very special guests.
Ultimately, it would be Ajayi who took home the title of slam dunk contest champion after he jumped over senior forward Megan Harkey, who also threw the ball off of the backboard.
Men’s Team Chasing After the Wins
“Every year, you start out with a lot of optimism,” Romar said. “You’re undefeated, and you want to start, from day one, making sure you’re doing things right.”
Coach Romar also said that the team has undoubtedly struggled these past couple of years, but he said the Waves can expect a difference with this year’s team.
“After COVID, we fell into tough times,” Romar said. “We had one of the youngest teams in the country the last two years. But now, we’re a little older and a little more wiser. So, you can expect us to be a better basketball team.”
With six new editions to the men’s team, Romar said a focus on the team’s identity and purpose is crucial.
“Every year, I know, for us, it’s the same approach,” Romar said. “We start out making sure everyone understands what our purpose is, who we are, what our identity is supposed to be; then we try to build on it from there.”
The new additions to the men’s team include graduate student guard Ethan Anderson, junior guard Michael Ajayi, freshman guard Curtis Williams, freshman forward John Squire, freshman guard Nils Cooper and freshman forward Martin Gumwel.
Mallette also said his approach to the season has been important, coming off of his sophomore campaign during which he averaged 13 points per game according to ESPN.
“[It is the] same approach each year,” Mallette said. “Figuring out what our team identity is and meshing with new guys. We have six newcomers this year. [It’s a different] group but definitely exciting.”
As the season approaches, there is a lot of optimism and excitement surrounding men’s basketball. Waves fans should get excited as they get ready to face Concordia Irvine in Firestone Fieldhouse on Nov. 6.
Women’s Team Full of New Faces and Excitement
Approaching the season with a whole new squad, members of Women’s Basketball said they expect to win more games this year.
The women’s team is taking the season “day by day,” and trusting that they will get better as the season progresses, Keizer said.
“Every season is its own journey,” Keizer said. “We so badly want to be at the end, but we are at the beginning.”
Speaking to this mindset as a first-year head coach at Pepperdine, Keizer said she acknowledges the importance of the role that she is stepping into.
“I want to represent Pepperdine with a lot of pride,” Keizer said. “This is an institution that has a lot of prestige — a lot of strong legacy here, and we want to try to rise to the level of the expectations.”
Senior guard Jane Nwaba said she looks back on her last three years at Pepperdine to inform her attitude approaching her last season.
“Being here for four years and not having [Blue and Orange Madness] my freshman year because of COVID, it’s nice seeing these past three years,” Nwaba said. “Every year getting better, more people coming and participating — it’s been awesome.”
As Keizer mentioned, Nwaba said there are many adjustments to having such a new locker room this season.
“This year, having ten new girls and a whole new coaching staff, I think the approach is definitely going to be different,” Nwaba said. “We’re bonding more as a team; we’re getting closer; we’re having fun; and our goal is to win more games this year.”
The first game of the season will take place Nov. 3, as the waves prepare to play Biola University in Firestone Fieldhouse.
“Energy and toughness,” Nwaba said. “We’re going to play together every single game.”
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Email Dylan Chai: email@example.com