By now, you’ve heard that the Banner Boys Charity Game was a resounding success. The fact that hundreds of fans showed up to watch former college stars essentially play a pick-up game was enough to convince me that this event has staying power.
It has everything. Recent stars such as Ricky Franklin and James Eayrs on the same court as Clay Tucker and Boo Davis? I’m in! Fans of Bruce Pearl’s squads have all their favorite cast members in black and gold once again, bringing back memories of old. Even casual fans of basketball got to enjoy all the talent on the court. It was really an excellent experience all-around.
And I think it could be even better. So here’s my offer, Joah, some ideas for you to kick around next spring when you’re planning the 3rd Annual Banner Boys Charity Basketball Game.
Move it to the KC. There’s really no reason that this game should be played anywhere but the Klotsche Center. Nicolet High School is the alma mater of Tucker, Steven Pearl and a bunch of other potential Banner Boys game participants, and they get it for free, but this is an event celebrating the Milwaukee Panthers’ greatest years. Let’s bring the game to campus.
This can’t just be on Joah. The university, for all its good parts, has an awful view of its prime athletic facility. Outside of women’s basketball and volleyball games, the Klotsche Center Arena plays host to the season opening intra-squad scrimmage and not much else. This year, it took a lot of hand wringing for them to take a holiday showcase game featuring incoming freshman Kyle Kelm and the Randolph Rockets. That was a nice event, which got decent attendance from the Milwaukee Athletics community that was very interested in seeing one future player. You’re gonna tell me that they wouldn’t get more for this event?!
It would be a great public relations move if the university offered up the Klotsche Center for free. Let Joah Tucker’s sponsors pay for the insurance and referees, but waive the fee to rent out the facility. We don’t need to make money on an event like this, the PR love we’d get would be free marketing for the school. If UWM is dead set on making money, offer the arena for free and keep all the money made on concessions; Mount Mary sold a hell of a lot last night.
Is the possibility there that the university would lose money by putting this game on? Absolutely. But it’s for charity, and like I said, free marketing. A no-brainer for the UWM brass.
Get NBA players in the game. Wes Matthews is a great guy with deep UWM connections, dating a former women’s soccer player (and attending a majority of her games at Engelmann) since high school. He’s participating in the Milwaukee Pro-Am, so you know he’s up for off-season b-ball. And he can use it as a contribution to NBA Cares. Carl Landry and Alando Tucker are friends with many former UWM players that were in the game last night. Devin Harris was recruited to Milwaukee but ended up following Rob Jeter to Wisconsin, and his first Dallas Mavericks jersey hangs in Coach’s office. Pitch raising money for charity to these guys; tell them all the great things the Jared C. Bruce Academy does for young students on the north side.
You want these people because then the draw is so much bigger. The Klotsche Center on UWM’s campus would be packed if all of those players were assembled against the Panther alumni for a basketball game. And if we don’t need to move Avery Smith, Ricky Franklin and Deion James to the away team to fill out the rosters, I’d be willing to bet that game would be DAMN good. Would we lose? Who cares? It’s for charity!
Avoid the Pro-Am. I had a laugh the other day when I checked out Joah’s picture on Facebook, the banner for the game. The comments section was full of friendly trash talk between opposing players, but also contained a comment from Jim Ganzer, organizer of the Milwaukee Pro-Am, in its first year. The picture has been taken down since, but the comment went somewhere along the lines of “So I’m gonna be missing 15 players from the Pro-Am that day?”
Whoops. The fact is that Joah had the August 6th date committed months ago, but communication with Ganzer would have prevented the problem. Also, you don’t want to make players like Wes Matthews and Scott Merritt choose between a UWM charity event and a Marquette driven event like the Pro-Am. Merritt was lined up to play in the Banner Boys game tonight, but wasn’t there. I’m sure he was at the Pro-Am, which is totally fine, he had a double-commitment and had to pick one.
But we don’t want to make them pick. So, when the date at the Klotsche Center is picked (hopefully by May or so), it would be prudent to drop Jim Ganzer a line so he doesn’t have a night when he’ll be missing many players. These are both great events, and I don’t want fans like mupanther to have to choose between them. Separate the dates.
The Brewers schedule should also be taken into account. While the Crew don’t play basketball, they do bring in 35,000 fans a game, and on a weekend night like the Banner Boys game, they’ll bring in closer to 45,000. That’s a lot of people that may be basketball fans that instead choose to tailgate at Miller Park.
Get Coach Jeter involved. This is another easy move. Rob Jeter was in attendance tonight, one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. He took a seat on the west end of the bleachers and took in the game. When LeVar was announcing the players, it occurred to one of my fellow Panthers that coach Jeter should be doing the introductions. After all, many of these guys played for him, and while guys like Torre Johnson, Derrick Wimmer, and Myles McKay didn’t have the smoothest of exits from the program, most of them are on good terms with Coach. It’s also a priority of Jeter’s to keep the former players around the program, and it would be nice to see Coach “let his hair down” and enjoy himself. The fans will eat that up. For as cool as a guy Coach Jeter is, a lot of our fans prefer the outgoing (understatement of the century) nature of Bruce Pearl. I’m not saying Jeter has to get all John Mason out there (B-b-b-b-b-b-Big Lumba!), but it would be nice to see him introducing the Marvelous Torre Johnson to the fans.
Make it an event. The UWM alumni players get together maybe once or twice a year. It’s always a great time, and the fans enjoy it because they get to reminisce with their heroes; for instance, tonight a few fans had a fun time as different players deflected the blame for the champagne incident pictured here on others. If you believe Rob Sanders, James Wright, Chris Hill, Joah Tucker, Boo Davis, and Ed McCants, then it was all of them (and Mark Pancratz), because each player was implicated by someone else. Kind of like Clue, but fun.
When I say make it an event, you want people to get more out of it then watch a basketball game. If the game is at the Klotsche Center, have a cookout outside prior to the game so fans and players can intermingle and break bread together. People may break out checkbooks and give more money to the cause if Joah gets more face time with his fans.
As far as in the game itself, bring a microphone and have the emcee (I’ll get to him later) talk to players about their favorite experiences, teammates and moments in time. Fans will go bananas over that kind of intimate interaction. Obviously most of the time would be used by Joah to talk about the Academy and his own experiences, but any of the players can participate. It’s a great filler for when players are running layup lines and stretching; get the crowd involved early on, even before the game begins.
Market the hell out of it. PantherU has been the only place that really hammered the promotion of this event until the past couple days. UWMPanthers.com, ESPN 540 and JSOnline all had coverage over the last day and a half, with the former two actually getting full coverage. But by the day before an event, most people already have their plans for the following night. Get a banner on UWMPanthers.com, PantherU.com (shameless self-promotion), talk to Bill Johnson several days before the event, and get Tom Enlund to cover it the Monday before. That way, people know what’s going on so they can plan for it.
Sell t-shirts. I mean, I want one of those Banner Boys shirts! By selling them, you’re getting even more money for the scholarship fund. Many printers will even give a major discount or do it for free if you put their logo and phone number on the sleeve or something, especially if it’s for charity. By putting the apparel out there, you brand the event and people will remember it for next year.
Make me the PA announcer. Coach Jeter doesn’t have to go John Mason, but I most certainly will. Public address announcers at these events are basically cheerleaders anyways, and who fires up a crowd of Panther fans better than me?
Filed under: Commentary, Milwaukee | Tagged: Banner Boys, Bill Johnson, Charity Basketball Game, David Gruber, Joah Tucker, JSOnline, Klotsche Center, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Panthers, PantherU, Rob Jeter, Steve Haywood, The Game, UWM, UWMPanthers.com |