A home court tradition echoes through Willett Hall

Published 12:53 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

A referee blows his whistle and the home crowd goes quiet, anticipating a critical foul shot. In most gyms, the silence is unbroken. Not so at Longwood. From somewhere in the crowd, a voice calls out: “Hands up for Lancers!” 

Immediately, hands rise in the air as the foul shot is attempted–hands that come down with an audible whoosh when the ball swishes through the net. It’s a unique tradition at Longwood, and one that gives Willett Hall its charm and character. But who calls out the magic words, and how do they time it right?

At the beginning of this season, the chant was led by Cormier Honors College Dean and basketball superfan Dr. Chris Kukk, whose general enthusiasm and emphatic voice are the perfect combination to ring out in Willett Hall. 

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“It takes a certain amount of timing,” said Kukk. “You can’t say it too early, or people won’t hear you, and you can’t say it too late and risk distracting the player shooting the foul shot. It’s a great thing to see all those hands go up immediately after you say it.”

The chant surfaced about 10 years ago, and was led by the boisterous athletics marketing director, known to students as “Lancer Pants.” Quickly adopted, the phrase has made its way onto rally towels, t-shirts, and posters.

“It means that we’re right there with the team,” said Kukk. “It’s a show of support and investment–we’re connecting with what’s happening on the court. And like a lot of our traditions, it’s positive rather than something negative aimed at the opposition. It feels like a very Longwood type of tradition.”

Students have gotten involved, as well. Typically a member of Stampede, the Longwood pep band, calls out the words before foul shots from behind a bass drum or tuba or trombone.

“Stampede adds so much to the atmosphere of home games,” said Austin Shaver, associate director of athletics. “Their owning this tradition has kept it alive for many years and has added to the foundation on which we’ve built our basketball programs.”

The Lancers host Presbyterian on Wednesday night at 7 p.m., and the game is Honors College Night in Willett Hall.