Tag: Pete Mathews Coliseum

Mayes: Ray Harper says JSU could have a tough home-court advantage, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t

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Pete Mathews Coliseum was at near-capacity crowd on Thursday for the Gamecocks’ game against EIU, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be packed every game. (Hollie Ivey, The Chanticleer)

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


“The crowd was great, and I can’t thank the students enough for showing up like they did. If they’ll keep coming back, and coming in those numbers, this could be a huge home-court advantage and one of the toughest home-courts in the league. That’s what it’s all about if you’re going to have a chance to play late in the year.”

That’s what JSU Head Basketball Coach Ray Harper said after Thursday night’s 69-62 win over Eastern Illinois was attended by a crowd that probably made the athletic staff glad they got that last section of missing bleachers (a casualty of the March 19 Tornado) repaired in time.

The fact of the matter is, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.

Talk to anyone who’s played college basketball, or really anyone who has ever even attended a game, and they’ll rave about how important the advantage of an energized, attentive crowd is.

Just take Senior Marlon Hunter’s comments after the game:

“Tonight was crazy, man. We fed off the crowd’s energy all night. They crowd just kept on lifting us, and we kept turning it up.”

Atmosphere matters in college basketball.

Sure, not every game will feature a halftime performance by unicycling bowl-flipper Red Panda. Not every game will include a $200 reward for the campus organization with the most attendance.

But JSU can have a great atmosphere inside Pete Mathews. JSU has enough students, and the Coliseum is a small enough venue, that there is no reason it shouldn’t be at least mostly full for each game.

Especially during conference play. Especially with students back on campus.

“The crowd was great. I think that’s the best crowd we’ve had since I’ve been here,” JSU’s Jason Burnell said after Thursday’s game.

“The thing is, people are going to come see you if you win, so we’ve just got to keep winning.”

JSU is in the midst of unequivocally their best stretch of basketball since joining Division I. With an OVC Tournament win, NCAA Tournament appearance, a school record for single-season wins, and four-straight wins over the OVC’s historically best program in Belmont, Ray Harper and the Gamecocks have done their part in the last three years.

Now it’s time for students and JSU fans to keep up their end of the deal.

The Gamecocks go for five-straight over Belmont Thursday night. See you there, Gamecock nation.

Leadership helps guide JSU student-athletes to give back

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Don’t be alarmed if you see a 7-foot male wielding a chainsaw around Jacksonville, it’s just Norbertas Giga. If you spend more time looking around, you might even see several Jacksonville State volleyball players attempting to roll a fallen tree trunk to a more convenient spot.

Before asking why you may see these sights, maybe the first question should (jokingly) be towards JSU strength and conditioning coach Gavin Hallford and if helping move trees counts as their workout for the day.

The reason that should be the first question is simple — because asking why JSU student-athletes are helping is pointless.

Why? Just continue to look around.

There’s JSU head football coach John Grass with a chainsaw. JSU softball assistant coaches Mark Wisner and Julie Boland working on a patch of land. JSU head volleyball coach Terry Gamble, his son Kyle and daughter-in-law Reagan were all helping. JSU associate athletic director for media relations Josh Underwood is there, too.

Are you beginning to see the picture here?

The reason there are so many JSU student-athletes helping around campus is because the desire to help starts at the top; it starts with those with great influence.

There’s a reason Malcolm Drumwright and Mohamed Abuarisha came straight home from last week’s College Basketball Invitational semifinal game and immediately went to work. There’s a reason Jamie McGuire, Cadi Oliver, Stephanie Lewis and Sallie Beth Burch dropped what they were doing elsewhere around the state to come back home to help.

Because it’s what they were taught to do. Helping those in need has become a staple of what Jacksonville State University is all about.

For years now, the communities surrounding Jacksonville State have traveled to support these student-athletes during sporting events, so it should come as no surprise that these same players … humans … are working around the city to help give back, to help rebuild but most importantly to help show they care.

Think back to JSU softball’s annual Fan Day. Head coach Jana McGinnis rarely does much talking at the event, but when she does, there’s always a ringing statement that’s forever imprinted on minds:

“I hope you (the fans) will consider us as your favorite team because this is home and we are always here for you.”

It may take several months — maybe a year even — before the restorations on Pete Mathews Coliseum, University Field and Rudy Abbott Field are completed, so when the football players are lined up to kick off the 2018 season, just remember to be sure to be at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium to cheer on those guys who came to help when you needed it most.

Golden-Hearted Families: Leas and Strains return to Jacksonville to help those in need

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Justin Lea, Courtney Strain and Leah Strain all were born and grew up hours away from Jacksonville. But major life milestones over the years have made Jacksonville State home for the trio.

For Courtney, it was meeting current fiancé Dalton Screws, who was a teammate of Lea under Bill Clark and John Grass, on top of countless basketball games played inside Pete Mathews Coliseum. For Leah, it was the friendships and memories created, joining the nursing program and, like her older sister, the time spent on the now ruined hardwood of Pete Mathews Coliseum. For Justin, JSU gave him an opportunity to continue playing the sport — football — he loves; a sport he hopes will continue giving in the future with a professional opportunity.

So, it’s easy to understand why they took the initiative to come and lend a hand … more specifically 100 hands.

Courtney, now a science teacher and coach at Handley High School, and her dad, Larry, brought 41 student-athletes from Roanoke, a city an hour and 18 minutes from JSU’s campus, to assist Lea and his brother, Jay, cutting and clearing trees from the yard of Jamie “Red” Etheredge, who has been a strong supporter of JSU student programs, and the area surrounding the Alumni house.

“I just know Red does a lot for JSU athletes … He’s one of the biggest supporters we have,” said Lea. “My hometown was hit in 2011 and we saw a lot of people come from out of town to help us, so I just wanted to find a way to come out and help.

“I give credit to my parents and grandparents and those who raised me when I think about the man I am today and to think about yourself last and if someone needs help, go help them.”

For Larry, who is the head coach at Handley, it was a no-brainer to bring some of his athletes to Jacksonville and help.

“There is no better team-building exercise than helping others,” Larry said. “It was actually about 10:30 Wednesday night when I decided we needed to do it. We got to school yesterday and the first people I called were my principal and superintendent and they were more than supportive about the idea. The kids knew nothing about it yesterday, so when I asked this morning, all their hands went up.

“I knew it was the right thing to do. As a team, we need to learn to help other people when they need help.”

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Thursday morning, both Courtney and Leah reached out to get in touch with JSU athletic director Greg Seitz, who pointed Larry in another direction before he was able to connect the EMA and get the OK to help.

According to Larry, his initial intentions were to help clean up JSU’s softball field, tennis courts and the rest of the spring sports venues. However, with the school’s campus closed to all non-essentially personnel until April 2nd, the near 50-person clean-up crew spend most of Friday morning in Red’s backyard moving parts of trees.

“It was a great two-in-one scenario,” Courtney said. “You’re helping a community that’s very near our families but also bonding as a team. I told someone this earlier, but these kids need to realize life isn’t always about them and their wants and their needs. They may not realize it right now, but one day they’re going to look back and realize you’re supposed to do things for other people because one day you may be in the same situation.”

Listen to the sirens, hymns and cries while help is on the way

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

If you listen, you can hear it.

You can hear the ear-piercing alarm from an apartment building missing most of its exterior; the sounds of chainsaws slicing up fallen trees blocking the roads; the sirens from emergency vehicles racing through a dampened city.

But if you listen closer, you can hear the cries for help from the students who just had their world rocked by a tornado moments prior. A tornado that wasn’t supposed to hit Jacksonville State University. A tornado that wasn’t supposed to hit … home.

If you asked any of those displaced 18-22-year-old students why they chose to come to JSU, the unanimous response would be, “because it felt like home.”

It felt like home because they are surrounded by friends — some young, some older — they consider family. Just look at the Instagram posts. The football team. The basketball teams. The softball team. The baseball team. Sororities and Fraternities. Those who work together and those who only see each other during study sessions.

“It was never the buildings, the trees or the stadiums that made Jacksonville home,” said former JSU punter and Australian native Hamish Macinnes on social media Tuesday afternoon. “It was the incredible people that made it so special. No wind can blow that away.”

Everyone intertwines to form a bond that shares one thing in common: We are all Jacksonville State Gamecocks and we are all hurting right now.

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If you listen, you can hear the sound of a 1929 gospel song echo through the halls of a weathered Mason Hall. Or ringing through an emptied Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.

The Marching Southerners singing “I’ll Fly Away” has been a staple of Jacksonville State since the downed trees along Highway 204 were planted. The hymn gives hope; it gives meaning; it gives inspiration to those who listen.

“In the wake of all these storms and seeing the damage done to our treasured university, I think all of us Gamecocks are singing ‘I’ll Fly Away’ in our hearts,” tweeted JSU graduate Caden Crosby deep into Monday night. “We are JSU.”

Fellow Gamecock graduate Collin Barnwell took it a step further and posted the lyrics on his social media.

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When all feels lost. When all seems clueless. When all hurts.

Continue to listen.

Because help is on the way.

As sure as roofs will be placed back on Logan and Patterson Hall and as sure as Pete Mathews Coliseum will be repaired, you aren’t alone. A simple tweet asking for someone to check on a pet; a Facebook message asking a friend for a place to stay or a Snapchat post reaffirms that belief.

That’s what makes Jacksonville State home. No one is ever alone, especially in a time of such need.

“Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”