It's been 574 days in between fan appearances in McKale Center. Finally, Arizona men's basketball got their die-hard fan base back in attendance for the annual Blue-Red game. This is a new era for Arizona men's basketball with a new head coach and a roster almost full of players that have never played a game in front of the ZonaZoo student section.
Christian Koloko is one of the few players on this roster who knows what it feels like to play on the well-known home-court advantage that is McKale. His face lit up at media day when he talked about how excited he was to play in front of fans again.
“Ah man, I can’t even tell you, last year was a disaster. When you’re in McKale in front of nobody and you get down like five [points] and have no energy and you really need the people to cheer. We are going to need it this year," Koloko said. "The team is going to need the support and we give it back to them by winning games.”
Koloko, head coach Tommy Lloyd and the rest of this team and staff know they need to get back to the top of the conference and return to the blue blood status that once was in Tucson. They also know the support and engagement from the community is needed to make it there. There is genuine excitement from this team about how enjoyable this season will be.
“It’s important to have the students and the fanbase there, and to show coach [Lloyd] that they are supportive here and they are going to be there with us this year and be with us for the bad and the good moments, even if we are not winning every game," Koloko said. "It’s going to be very important to see that they are here with us and we can count on them.”
Lloyd spoke to the fans before the game after an extremely loud ovation from the crowd.
“What I ask of you, is that you support us, come out and help us and at the end of the day let's enjoy this great ride together" Lloyd said at the Red-Blue game.
By tip-off, McKale was nearly filled and new players like Kim Aiken Jr. were in awe of what a big-time program fanbase could look like.
RELATED: Red/Blue game thoughts and takeaways
“Being here, and I know what McKale brings when the fans come, I’m extremely excited," Aiken said at the game.
This Arizona men's team is extremely international with eight players being recruited off the international trail via freshmen commits or the transfer portal. Some current players also are extremely excited for those players to experience a rocking McKale for the first time.
Grant Weitman pointed this out specifically when asked about it at media day.
“I think the European players don’t really know what it’s like to play in America here with fans," Weitman said. "It’s going to be a great surprise for them.”
One of those players mentioned is returning guard Kerr Kriisa who is expected to run the point guard position for Lloyd’s offense this season.
“Having fans is great, nowadays it’s rare especially after the [COVID-19] year," Kriisa said. "So we are really excited just to have fans, just have somebody to play in front of in person, we are really excited."
The overall takeaway from many of the players on this team is they are so excited to display what they can become. They want the fans and students to be behind them every step of the way to make this a journey for all of Wildcat nation.
Follow Patrick Carr on Twitter