Kane’s Korner: Dunk City delivers electric atmosphere in home opener

On Tuesday, the lights were bright on FGCU in Alico Arena. FGCU had the opportunity of a lifetime: a nationally televised game on ESPN2. No other games were on. This was FGCU’s time to shine. All before the sun came up.
FGCU was selected as one of the schools to participate in ESPN’s 24-hour college hoops marathon. Their time slot was at 7 a.m. I will be bluntly honest. I didn’t think many people would show up so early.
Boy, am I glad I was wrong. The announced crowd of 4,525 people showed up for the first nationally televised home game in FGCU history. It was the most fun I’ve ever had covering a game here at FGCU. I was there last year for the Miami game, but that didn’t have the expectations that this game had.
This was the first home game since FGCU became more famous by the name “Dunk City,” and the pressure on for them to dunk. The team didn’t accomplish one dunk in the season opener, so everyone was anticipating the high-flying team that everyone fell in love with in March.
The first half came as a disappointment. FGCU didn’t play too well, and there wasn’t a dunk. But with 15:32 left in the game, senior Chase Fieler did what everyone was waiting for. He dunked the ball. And he dunked it hard.
Once he did that, it felt like a burden was lifted off FGCU’s shoulders. They looked like they were lighter and faster. They looked like they were ready to have some fun.
And they had a blast.
FGCU got all 4,500 people on their feet, multiple times in the last 15 minutes cheering and yelling at the top of their lungs.
Oh don’t forget—it was still before 9 a.m., which is before a majority of FGCU students would even wake up on a normal school day. And yet I couldn’t hear myself think inside Alico Arena. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was having fun. They were chanting. They even wished a 9-yearold happy birthday.
FGCU had the nation’s attention for a few hours, and they made it count once again. They had a packed crowd. They won the game. And most importantly, they lived up to the Dunk City hype.
ESPN made the right choice in coming to FGCU as part of its 24-hour marathon. FGCU just continues to grow, and more games like this will happen in time. We already have the ESPN3 deal; it’s only a matter of time until we can have multiple games a year on ESPN and ESPN2.
So, welcome back basketball. We have missed you. It’s been a long and sad seven months, but I for one am excited for what this year has in store. I hope everyone else is as excited as I am, because seeing Alico packed at 7 a.m. was an incredible sight to see. Imagine a 7 p.m. game. There should be no reason why it’s not packed, so let’s not disappoint.
Let’s make sure those lights never fade.