By Riley Steiner, For The Miami Student
During the summer, the men's basketball coaching staff began to think about ways to reach out to the student body, and came up with the idea for an event that would connect the team with the international student community.
"Living in this community and noticing that we have a great international community, it was always very evident that they love basketball," said assistant coach Trey Meyer. "We thought, 'Why not connect the two?', because we have an international presence on our team."
Several men's basketball players hail from outside the United States. Sophomore guard Dion Wade is from Antwerp, Belgium; sophomore guard Abdoulaye Harouna is from Niamey, Niger; and forward Jere Vucica, a graduate student, is from Split, Croatia. Junior Jiaying Wang, the team's manager, is from Beijing, China.
"I know a lot of guys in China love basketball, so we want to introduce our team to the international students," Wang said. "It's a way for them to be part of the Miami community."
Harouna said it is important for the team and Miami's international student community to get to know each other, because sometimes that can be an obstacle during daily life on campus.
"We are trying to get closer to the international students," he said. "We want them to not just see us as the players, we want to build friendships with them."
Head coach John Cooper said he sees the value in cultivating relationships for both the players and the student body.
"It's important that, as student-athletes, you understand engaging with the rest of the university community," Cooper said. "We want to reach out to the international community because they are a very vital part of the university population."
Throughout the night, players and students were able to interact and get to know each other. The event was open to all international students, and included team introductions, three-point and dunk contests between players, free pizza and prize giveaways. The cheerleading team taught the students several chants for games later in the season. Afterward, the court was opened to students to shoot baskets with the team.
The basketball team and coaching staff are hopeful that International Night will attract support this season from students who attended.
"Hopefully we'll get involved with them and they'll get involved with us, too," said Wade.
First-year Lulu Liu came to International Night to see what the program was all about.
"It's the first time I've taken part in a basketball [event] here, so I thought this would be a good
chance to have a try," she said. "I think I will come back for the next game."
Graduate student Michael Ma also said he would come to games this season after International Night.
"I love basketball, and it was a good event," he said.
After close to 60 students attended the first International Night, the team and coaching staff want to hold the event annually.
"There's always a start," said Cooper. "We hope to build on this and develop a kinship with the international community."
At the end of International Night, Cooper addressed the students.
"What we have here as a program, you all are part of that," he said. "We hope that you all will create a great environment and become one with our program."
Friendship between the team and the international student community was something everyone was excited about.
"This is beneficial for the team and the students," Wade said. "We're all having fun out here."