New era of Jackrabbit basketball starts with tip off event

ELLIE THOMPSON For The Collegian

For the first time since 2011, Jackrabbit fans will get a sneak peak at the basketball season more than two weeks before the first game.


That’s the idea behind the Jackrabbit Tipoff that begins at 7 tonight (Thursday, Oct. 13), in Frost Arena. The event is free and open to the public.


The Tipoff features a dunk contest, 3-point shooting contest, player introductions and more as it showcases both teams that are coming off of impressive seasons.


Last year, the men’s team finished 26-8. They ended their season with a loss to 5th-seeded Maryland by five points in the NCAA Tournament. The women, who finished their season 27-7, also made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. For the second time in school history, they advanced to the second round. They lost to 4th-seeded Stanford by two points to end their season.


“There’s a ton of excitement surrounding both teams right now,” said Aaron Johnston, coach of the women’s basketball team. “Both teams are coming off NCAA tournament appearances, both teams have been really strong, there’s a lot of new players and new things for both teams. So I think people will be very interested in checking it out.”


The event will resemble a typical Midnight Madness, a popular event in college basketball which opens and celebrates the upcoming season. But this event will take a new approach with its family-friendly start time and the incorporation of fan participation.  


“There’s going to be a lot of activities to get the students and fans involved, where they’re active participants in everything were doing,” said Jonathan Trieber, director of athletic marketing at SDSU.


Fans will be randomly selected to attempt a half-court shot, the winner of which will receive a $500 gift card to the SDSU Bookstore. There also will be raffle drawings for signed basketballs by the players and the coaches, along with many interactive video features.


“They will do a good job of really engaging the fans, making them feel like they’re apart of it rather than just watching it,” said T.J. Otzelberger, new head coach of the men’s basketball team.


Otzelberger, who was hired this past April, replaced former head coach Scott Nagy. Nagy had coached the Jacks for over two decades prior to his move to Wright State.


Additionally, the dunk contest will be judged by a season ticket holder and a Rabbit Den member alongside both head coaches and CBS Sports writer, Gary Parish. Both randomly selected judges will be chosen on the night of the event.


Mike Daum, standout sophomore, says he expects many, “high-flying, rim-shaking dunks and a lot of crowd excitement” during the contest.


Another anticipated event is the 3-point shooting contest. Both teams will each select their best shooters to compete against each other, then the winners from both teams will go head to head for an overall champion.


The projected fan favorite of the night, according to Trieber, is the Junior Jacks dunk contest. Members of the Junior Jacks club will get to join the players on the court and throw some dunks down on a Little Tyke’s hoop.


Jackrabbit fans can be registered as a Junior Jack if they are an eighth grader or younger at Members of the Junior Jacks club receives free admission to all regular season home athletic events, a chance to be introduced with the Jacks at a home athletic event, and more.  


Another part of Jackrabbit Tipoff many fans are looking forward to is the player introductions. Fans will be introduced to all the athletes, but an especially exciting aspect is meeting the numerous new faces before they hit the court. The men’s team has added five players to its roster this year while the women’s team has added four.


The event is expected to be about an hour and a half long and concessions will be available for purchase.


It will be hosted by Hannah Nieman, SDSU student, and her father Tom Nieman, current Midco Sports broadcaster and SDSU alum.

Gary Parish, writer from will also be covering the event.