By Alex Brown
For enthusiastic Union basketball fans and players, Bulldog Madness showed the promise of a new season and a sign of things to come.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams put on a show for the Union faithful, kicking off the season, Oct. 21, with the annual event. An excited crowd took in the celebratory atmosphere, but the players needed no motivation.
The men’s team, which features a host of new faces, energized the spectators with infectious enthusiasm. Throughout the scrimmages and various activities, including a three-point shootout and a dunk contest, the Bulldogs displayed a perpetual exhilaration that forward Shane Burrell, junior sport management major, said is the team’s trademark.
“We just like to have fun,” Burrell said. “We enjoy what we do. That was not an act we were doing; that is how we are. We have different characters and different personalities on the team that can get everybody up and joyful.”
Burrell, a transfer, said he enjoyed his first Bulldog Madness event, noting it provided the opportunity to show Union fans the progress the team has made and give them a taste of the upcoming season.
The 6-foot-8 inch, 275-pound big man put on a show of his own during the team’s scrimmage, throwing down thunderous dunks in the lane and draining three-pointers from outside the arc.
Burrell said his skill-set will allow the Bulldogs to run a versatile offense.
“We have a lot of scorers on the team,” Burrell said. “The offense we run goes straight into the post. My ability to score is going to throw a lot of defenses off because they will think, ‘He is kind of big, he is probably slow,’ but that is totally opposite; I can shoot the ball well.”
The Lady Bulldogs generated plenty of excitement as well, playing a tight scrimmage and outshooting the men in a series of three-point contests — an effort that drew embarrassed laughter from their male counterparts. The defending NAIA champions showcased several players stepping into new roles, including Paige Parker, sophomore mathematics major.
The second-year guard, who hit two three-pointers late in the scrimmage, said she needs to provide an outside presence to offset the loss of Kaitlin Dudley, who graduated last year with the all-time Union scoring record.
Parker said the event gave the Lady Bulldogs a valuable opportunity to showcase their team’s abilities.
“(Bulldog Madness) is obviously a big Union tradition, and we enjoy it,” Parker said. “We can show we are here to play for the Lord and to express the abilities God has given us.”
One of the more memorable episodes of the night characterized the jesting mentality of the men’s team. The men and women faced off in a three-point contest, with individuals from each team going head-to-head.
C.J. Davis, sophomore sport management major, fell behind to Kayla Hudson, senior political science major, by a large margin. Before the buzzer sounded, Davis, who Burrell tagged as the team’s comic ringleader, collapsed with a fake leg injury, and two teammates carried him off the floor as the rest of the squad feigned concern.
Such displays were not uncommon, as the team rarely missed an opportunity to play to the crowd. The women, while more reserved, have their own brand of fun, Parker said.
“We are more laid back, but we have a lot of fun too,” Parker said. “We just enjoy each other. We are a close team, but we are not as goofy as they are.”
Bulldog Madness also featured student shooting contests and a dunk competition that included students and players.