DETROIT – Before all 20 Horizon League teams hit the floor at Joe Louis Arena for the second annual Little Caesars Horizon League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament from March 3-7, they’re taking time to give back to the Detroit community.
As Horizon League men’s and women’s teams travel to Detroit to take on Oakland and Detroit Mercy during conference play, they are stopping at various locations throughout Metro Detroit to partake in community programs and initiatives leading up to “Motor City Madness.”
"We are thrilled that our students, coaches and administrators are committed to helping serve not only their communities but the Detroit Community". Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan LeCrone said. "Part of the Horizon League experience is serving others, and our initiative in Detroit, host for Motor City Madness, is another meaningful example of that commitment".
Upcoming scheduled stops include visits at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, a special education school visit, a wheelchair basketball game with the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan and much more.
“We worked closely with several of our community partners to set up unique and valuable experiences for the student-athletes to give back throughout Metro Detroit,” said John Ciszewski, Olympia Entertainment Senior Vice President of Sales. “We commend the teams for their hard work, both within their local communities and here in Detroit, and look forward to welcoming them to The Joe for another memorable ‘Motor City Madness’ tournament.”
On Friday, as four teams traveled to the Motor City for the opening weekend of Horizon League conference play, the men’s basketball teams from Wright State and Northern Kentucky, and the women’s basketball team from Illinois-Chicago, made sandwiches and prepared hundreds of meals for The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread program at the Harbor Light location in Detroit.
The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread program serves more than 4,200 meals every day to help fight hunger and homelessness, while also sheltering more than 500 men, women and children every night of the year.
“What I enjoyed most was knowing we were making a difference and helping the people of Detroit,” said Northern Kentucky senior guard Cole Murray. “It’s important for our team to give back and build a relationship with the Detroit community. We really enjoyed the opportunity.”
For Wright State junior guard Grant Benzinger, community activities provide a rewarding experience, while also allowing for crucial team bonding early in the conference season.
“It helps us realize there’s more out there than basketball and putting the ball through the hoop,” Benzinger said. “We also worked closely together today, and it helps with our team chemistry. We were all talking to each other and communicating. On the floor we also have to communicate.”
Additionally, the Valparaiso women’s basketball team visited the Michigan Science Center to work alongside children attending camps on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills.
“We’re all very fortunate to be in the position we are today,” said Valparaiso junior guard Georgi Donchetz. “I think it’s important to be good role models, and in today’s case, to show children that science is cool. To make kids smile is an important thing for us.”
With the women’s tournament joining the men this season at The Joe for the neutral site, 18-game tournament, community programs give out-of-state teams an opportunity to connect with fans in the host city.
“It’s important for our team to be role models in the community,” said Illinois-Chicago head coach Regina Miller. “Playing in a community like Detroit that has supported basketball in general, they have been great in getting people in the gym to watch women’s basketball that ordinarily wouldn’t.”
While winning the tournament and earning an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament is the top prize, the winning schools will also have the bragging rights of claiming the final Horizon League title at Joe Louis Arena, as the tournament will move to the state-of-the-art Little Caesars Arena next season.
“I’m excited to be a part of history this year,” said Northern Kentucky sophomore forward Drew McDonald. “Joe Louis Arena is an iconic stadium, and being in its last year to be able to play basketball and compete in a historic hockey rink is going to be really cool.”
Tickets start at $15 per day for the 2017 Little Caesars Horizon League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament and can be purchased at www.MotorCityMadness.HorizonLeague.com/tickets, the Joe Louis Arena Box Office and the Joe Louis Arena Ticket Sales and Service Office at 313-471-7575.