OLE MISS

Behind-The-Scenes Look At Square Jam

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The second annual Square Jam will be held on the Oxford Square Friday from 6:30-7:30 p.m., as part of this weekend's Homecoming festivities. The men's and women's basketball teams will participate in variety of drills and skills competitions to unofficially kick off the start of the season.

The event started when Ole Miss decided to do something with Midnight Madness, where they wanted to take basketball where their fans were going to be, so they did that by taking a basketball court to the Square in the parking lot in front of City Hall.


"We were in this external team for men's basketball, and I showed a picture of an outdoor basketball tournament," Hudspeth said. "And we started throwing around the concept of putting a basketball court on the Square. Initially, it was just a thought. The more we talked about it, Brian Russell, one of our event managers, said 'Why not, let's look into it.'"


"And so I threw a couple of lines in the water to see what kind of response we would get, and the responses started becoming more positive, so we pursued it. We found out how much a floor would cost, and if the city would allow us to do it. When the city said they would allow us to do it, that's when it took off full speed. Within a couple of weeks, we had basically planned the entire event and had the floor ordered, and it was ready to roll."


The original plan was for the inaugural event to be held this year, but head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy, Hudspeth said, really pushed and wanted to do it last year, and so they were able to put it all together in a short amount of time.


"Coach Kennedy, for a long time, really wanted to figure out a way to do some type of opening to basketball season," Hudspeth said. "And he felt like this was the perfect transition with us wrapping it into the Homecoming parade and a home football weekend, so people could start getting a basketball mentality into their brains."


During last year's event, Derrick Millinghaus won the knockout contest while the team of Nick Williams and Gracie Frizzell won the three-point content, and Aaron Jones won the dunk contest. Both teams will participate in all three events again this year, with a game of H-O-R-S-E as a possible addition.


Micah GInn, Director of Creative Services, will serve as the emcee, and Athletics Director Ross Bjork, women's basketball coach Matt Insell and Rebel Rewards member Colleen Haadsma (@chaadsma) will serve as the judges for the dunk contest. 


This year's event will also feature a few more additions to enrich the fan experience, some more noticeable than others.


"This year, we're going to have the Ole Miss logo in the center of the court," Hudspeth said. "That will be a neat addition. This year, we're adding a video board, which we have never done. It will be right next to the court and will face back toward the fans. It is an 11 x 17 foot video board, which is a pretty big size. We're going to have a camera crew out there and be able to show videos and starting lineups."


Among the other improvements are more bleachers on the three sides surrounding the court, better lighting, and added restrooms behind City Hall are among the other improvements for this year's event. Also, particularly in the event of colder weather, both players' benches will be completely heated.


The event itself lasts an hour, and within two hours last year, Hudspeth said, the Square was back open and running. However, it's a full day for him and his staff, which will then turn around to staff Saturday's Homecoming game against Idaho, with a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.


"We have been working on the planning process for months," he said. "On Friday, we will start probably around 11 a.m., myself and our marketing will go to the Square and set up a command center-type area where we have all the materials that we need for Square Jam, and we hang out all day." 


"It will take us about three to four hours to set everything up and have it ready to roll. The Homecoming parade starts at 5:30, and it's usually over by 6:30. We'll start our event at 6:30, and it should be over by 7:30. At about 7:45, we start taking everything down, and we're usually done by 9. Last year, I remember getting in my car to go home at 9:20. It's a full day."


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