Will Wade's UTC Mocs make on-campus swing in support of team

Will Wade's UTC Mocs make on-campus swing in support of team

November 6th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC forward Lance Stokes shoots during warmups at McKenzie Arena in this file photo.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

The answer surprised University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students living in the UTC Place dormitories Tuesday evening.

Because standing at the door was Gee McGhee or Casey Jones or Greg Pryor or Zaccheus Mason or another member of the UTC basketball team, trying to make friends with Mocs supporters or potential fans.

"That's something really different," junior Lance Stokes said Tuesday afternoon before rapping his knuckles. "I never thought of knocking on all the doors, which is going to be really good."

UTC coach Will Wade has fulfilled almost every speaking engagement to which he has been invited -- as his schedule allowed -- since athletic director David Blackburn hired him in May. Wade spoke to an alumni group Tuesday during his lunch hour.

The speaking engagements, the shaking hands with random fans when he's running errands, the appearance at Riverbend -- all are designed to reconnect Chattanooga residents with its hometown basketball team.

"He's done a great job of getting in front of as many groups as possible," said Blackburn, who also is in his first year as the head of UTC sports.

Wade said he has spoken with nearly every fraternity, sorority and other student group on campus to encourage them to attend UTC home games. He met with the pep band last week and thanked him for their efforts and time, which equates to one credit hour.

"We're undefeated," Wade said. "Everybody is happy now."

The first chance to knock UTC from the ranks of the undefeated comes Friday at 5:30 when they play the NCAA Division III Scots of Covenant College.

Earlier in the season, Wade emphasized to his players that they should introduce themselves to as many classmates as possible and dispel the notion that they're at UTC just to play basketball.

"We're certainly tying to engage the students," Wade said. "As I talk to students, they say, 'We want to know our guys.' That's the thinking behind going to the dorms and apartments. Our guys are students here, too."

They attend geology, English, Spanish, and Environmental Science classes every day and sit beside students who never dreamed of college athletics.

But they all can be part of the fun as UTC enters a new era of basketball with a new coach who brings an entertaining style of basketball to McKenzie Arena. After all, some students can walk less than 100 yards from their beds to their seats in McKenzie Arena.

"We've got an unbelievable opportunity because we've got a bunch of students here on campus," Wade said. "It's been fun to spread our message."

The message from Blackburn, Wade, the players and everybody else associated with the team is that student-participation is necessary for UTC to build a home-court advantage.

Wade has gone so far as to offer a bribe: The Greek house with the highest percentage of attendance on Friday will earn a $500 check signed by Wade from the same account from which he buys groceries -- his own account.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.