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Basketball Legion to wear black

Chris Khorey and Chris Hine | Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Notre Dame men’s basketball fans will wear black this season.

That was the color of the official Leprechaun Legion T-shirt handed out to students at the Legion’s season-opening event Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.

Legion president Tom Ceravolo said the idea for black came from head basketball coach Mike Brey. The Irish have worn black jerseys on the road at times over the past two seasons, and Brey encouraged fans to wear black at a home game against Alabama last December.

Ceravolo said the new color has another purpose. The Legion sells its shirts – which are traditionally bright green – to non-students to benefit the Coaches Versus Cancer foundation, and sales have slipped in recent years.

“The same color T-shirt three years in a row doesn’t sell very well,” Ceravolo said.

The event, which featured a highlight video, the team’s walk-on tryouts and an appearance by former Irish star LaPhonso Ellis, drew hundreds of basketball fans.

“I love interacting with our sixth man – the students,” Brey said before the event Tuesday. “That’s important to me. I want to make it very clear how important our sixth man is.”

Tuesday night was the first opportunity for students to purchase season tickets to men’s basketball games, but the tickets will be on sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Joyce Center. Season tickets will also be available for purchase online.

Notre Dame is riding a 20-game home court-winning streak and was undefeated at home last season. The Irish also made the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2003.

Despite all that, however, crowd support was inconsistent. While students and fans packed the stands for important Big East contests and the game with Alabama, other games saw a half empty arena.

Ellis emphasized the importance of crowd support.

“If you guys are into the game, it pays huge dividends for the guys on the floor,” he said in his speech to the crowd.

Irish point guard Tory Jackson said the turnout for Tuesday’s event means attendance will be high again for big games, even if lesser matchups, like Friday’s exhibition contest against Saint Ambrose, draw fewer fans.

“If they’re here now, we know they’re going to be here for the bigger games,” he said.

Ceravolo was more optimistic about the attendance for early season “cupcake” games.

“The football team’s not doing so well and people want to be excited about sports,” he said.

To help attendance, Ceravolo said the Legion will hand out free products at early season home games.

“Some of the early games we’re planning on having some giveaways, like green wigs or maybe glow sticks,” he said.

The exhibition game with Saint Ambrose tips off at 9 p.m. Friday. The Irish have a second exhibition game against Saint Edward’s Nov. 7, then open the regular season at home against Long Island Nov. 12.