Justin Tuoyo already stands out as, by all accounts, the tallest person on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. He also has a role as the men's basketball team's unofficial "hype man" on gameday, as he is constantly encouraging his 1,000-plus Twitter followers to attend games.
Today he will have a little more help.
With college football season in the sunset, the basketball team takes center stage with a big weekend, hosting games against Virginia Military Institute and UNC Greensboro. Should the team win both games, they'll be at the very least in a tie for first place with Mercer and Wofford in the Southern Conference when they travel to Macon to face the Bears a week from today.
Coach Will Wade and the team will be recruiting fans to the game today, walking around campus and making a stop at the Starbucks on campus to encourage fans to come out.
"We want players to have a great experience here," Wade said. "We play at some great venues on the road. We hope to start having some great crowds, and start building in the second half of the conference season."
The Mocs (12-7, 5-1) enter today's game against VMI (7-12, 3-4) having won nine of their last 11 games. It was around this time a season ago -- the fourth week of the conference season -- when the team was on a similar roll, and the fans showed their support, with 4,662 fans in attendance for the Mocs' 84-63 win over preseason conference favorite Elon before 6,648 came out to watch a 77-67 win over UNC Greensboro.
After leading the conference in attendance a season ago, the Mocs currently rank third behind UNC Greensboro and Mercer, averaging 2,751 fans, which is slightly ahead of East Tennessee State's 2,720 fans per home game.
"People in this town love basketball," Wade said. "The team is winning, and acting the right way, so I hope some people get behind us."
Like last season, Saturday's game was a doubleheader, with the women hosting Furman at 3 prior to the men's game at 6. No matter the number of people in the seats, Tuoyo will be urging the fans however necessary to "Pack the Mac," starting tonight when the Mocs face the fastest, highest-scoring team in the SoCon in the Keydets.
"Our home crowd definitely does a good job of coming to the game," Tuoyo said. "We love playing at home; it makes the game more fun ... the crowd has our back ... and we're in a gym that we're used to.
"Having a lot of people with a game like tomorrow and how it's going to be, it'll help us out a lot."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.