Appropriately, Friday began with the announcement that the new facility would be named the Werth Family UConn Basketball Championship Center. Peter and Pamela Werth, who have been longtime supporters of UConn Athletics, donated $7 million to the cause.
The building will house four men's NCAA trophies and nine women's trophies.
A champions center indeed.
When the events began inside Gampel Pavilion, the fun really began. The championship banners now hang from the ceiling, instead of as posters on the walls. They looked amazing. On one side, four men's banners hang, on the other, nine women's banners. Luckily, UConn had several recruits visiting that night.
How do they pick anywhere else after seeing that?
As for the actual game, there's not much to say. It was a glorified exhibition, an event played strictly for the fans. My highlights include:
Ray Allen and Kevin Ollie did a flying chest bump, following an impassioned speech by Ollie. "I worked here, I sweated here, I cried here, I bled here and it was all for UConn," he said.
That, my friends, is what UConn is about.
Geno Auriemma and Ollie, aside from being exceptional coaches, are two people that understand the importance of engaging the student body and the fans. Auriemma built the women's program into the dynasty it is and Ollie inherited his, but they both look the school in the same way. They pay attention to the fans, show a healthy respect towards each other and are determined to continue the legacy of winning in Storrs.
When Ryan Boatright was introduced, he came out rocking a championship belt.
Amida Brimah opened the game with an impressive turnaround jumper, about 15 feet away from the basket on the baseline. Brimah's overall performance was impressive- he ran the floor with ease, caught lobs, and overwhelmed defensively with his size. His outsized personality and that huge smile just light up the team. This motivated young man is a character of the highest order.
All in all, First Night was a tremendous success. No college in America can claim a men's and women's basketball championship in the same season, besides UConn.
They have done it twice.
Last night, they raised those banners to the ceilings of Gampel. And all was right in the Basketball Capital of the World.