Senior center Nick Ongenda dunks at the Blue Madness event on Friday, Oct. 14 at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park. DePaul men’s basketball will play Loyola (MD) in their season opener on Nov. 7. (Donald Crocker)
Senior center Nick Ongenda dunks at the Blue Madness event on Friday, Oct. 14 at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Lincoln Park. DePaul men’s basketball will play Loyola (MD) in their season opener on Nov. 7.

Donald Crocker

Pure madness: Annual event returns to tip off basketball season

October 16, 2022

Blue Madness is back. 

After what was a brief hiatus since 2019, DePaul basketball was on display, two weeks before the season officially tips off. 

The free public event took place on Friday, Oct. 14. It was initially scheduled for the outdoors in Saint Vincent de Paul’s parking lot, but unfortunate weather caused it to be moved into McGrath-Phillips Arena. This resulted in a huge turnout with packed bleachers. 

With food truck accommodations and representatives from the Chicago White Sox, Blue Madness had Chicago Bulls forwards Patrick Williams and Javonte Green in attendance. 

#1 Keke Rimmer comes out the tunnel for her introduction during DePaul’s Blue Madness event on Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena. (Donald Crocker)

“It means a lot,” said men’s head coach Tony Stubblefield. “Our marketing and our administration has done a great job with the work they have put in. To get the turn out like we did on a Friday evening, is very exciting. It introduces us to the start of the season.” 

Each player on the men’s and women’s basketball teams received their own individual introduction. Some walked and others danced out to a song of their choosing and finished their entrance by throwing t-shirts into the crowd. 

Women’s head coach Doug Bruno then grabbed the microphone, getting everyone on their feet shouting to the crowd multiple times, as he was losing his voice, “We need you,” in response to getting fans at Wintrust. 

After last season’s league bottom attendance rate, the efforts have been in place to improve the turnout at Wintrust Arena for the upcoming season. 

Blue Madness then featured the first of three events with the three-point contest. Two players from each team had 60 seconds to shoot 15 basketballs. Whoever made the most would move on to the final. 

#2 Umoji Gibson, #14 Nick Ogenda and #4 K.T. Raimey celebrating together after Gibson won the Blue Madness three-point contest. (Donald Crocker)

Juniors Darrione Rogers and Kendall Jones both shot representing the women. Graduate students Umoja Gibson and Brenden Favre shot for the men. Gibson and Favre advanced to the final round. In the final round, Gibson and Favre tied with eight shots made, forcing them to head to a tiebreaker. Gibson outshot Favre as he sunk his third shot, turning his back away from the basket before the shot went through. 

“That’s what basketball is, it’s for the fans,” said senior Nick Ongenda. “Everything we do is for the fans. From dunks, to shots to everything. It was a great experience.” 

The half-court shot event followed. Both teams gathered at center court and attempted to make 10 shots. Women and men from the team alternated shooting the ball. Each time one was made, cheerleaders and players tossed DePaul foam basketballs into the crowd. 

DePaul athletics anticipated and organized an event full of entertainment. Kick started by the Blue Demons cheer and dance teams with their performances, they were able to catch the audience’s attention before the main event started. 

DePaul senior guard Kierra Collier spoke about why there might have been a large turnout and what this means for the fans. 

“It was really nice to see everyone come out and support us,” Collier said. “I think this really gets us started for the rest of the season. It really just sets a standard for what we want for DePaul basketball, for both women and men. Seeing all the fans here just means alot to us, because with Covid and the previous years, we were not able to have as many people as we would like. The turnout here makes us very hopeful that we can continue to grow basketball here at DePaul.” 

The main event of the night that all fans were anticipating was the dunk contest. Special guest judges featured DePaul mascot DIBS, DePaul President Robert Manuel and Chicago Bulls forward Javonte Green. 

Coach Doug Bruno hypes up the crowd at Blue Madness event on Friday. (Donald Crocker)

Both finalists in the contest, Ongenda and junior De’Sean Nelson put on an absolute show. Nelson’s first dunk was a windmill dunk over 6-foot-7 Philmont Gebrewhit that erupted the crowd. Ongenda’s 360-windmill dunk captured yet another moment that had McGrath-Phillips Arena shaking. 

The crowd still was not satisfied as they called out Nelson to complete one more dunk. Instead, Ongenda came out and performed a windmill dunk to finish off the night, which brought a roar from the fans in the stands as they jumped to their feet. Each dunk received a 10 out of 10, but DIBS was not as satisfied and kept giving nines, wanting to see more. 

With DePaul’s love for basketball, this event shows lots of appreciation for the work that the men and women put in throughout the season. 

As Blue Madness concluded, the fan involvement among players continued. Players greeted fans with high fives and autographs, as fans were given all kinds of different team apparel from the athletes and athletic department. 

The women’s home opener at Wintrust is Nov. 9 against American University, while the men open at Wintrust against Loyola University Maryland. DePaul’s Blue Madness efforts were also in part to grow a connection to DePaul basketball and attend more games at the arena on the Near South Side. 

“Without a doubt, fans will show up to Wintrust,” Stubblefield said. “We just have to do our part and there is no doubt in my mind that the fans will follow. Chicago is a great sports city, DePaul is a great university.” 

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