Two of the best marketing agents for Monday night’s inaugural men’s college basketball doubleheader at Golden 1 Center have been Sacramento State coach Brian Katz and his UC Davis counterpart, Jim Les.
They say it’s a monumental opportunity not only to showcase the Aggies (3-1) and the Hornets (1-2) in the 5:30 p.m. Causeway Cup tipoff opener but to promote the college game, with No. 25 Cal playing San Diego State (3-1) in the 8 o’clock nightcap.
“These games have a chance to really lift up collegiate basketball in this region,” Katz said. “It’s going to put college basketball on a whole different level, a whole new platform.”
Les, a former Kings guard , praised the NBA team for the invitation and said the $557 million downtown arena might be the big draw for some fans.
“The Sacramento region has some unbelievable basketball fans,” Les said. “I think the fact that we get all our alumni, players, coaches, fans and administrators together to go to Golden 1, which is a spectacular facility, and create some energy and enthusiasm about college basketball, is great.”
The doubleheader also could break attendance records for Sac State and UC Davis locally. Sac State drew 8,989 at Arco Arena in December 1994 as part of a doubleheader. The Hornets lost to Fairfield 78-63, though most fans were there to see Allen Iverson and Georgetown defeat Grambling State 83-66 in the Holiday Classic. Golden 1 Center seats 17,500.
Before the Pavilion at UC Davis was renovated and seating capacity downsized to 5,670 in 2009, UCD’s biggest home crowd was 7,926 for a 1999 game against Chico State on “Break the Record Night.”
While San Diego State and Cal play at larger home campus arenas than the Aggies’ or Sac State’s cozy 1,000-seat facility called the Nest, they look forward to being part of Golden I Center history.
“It’s an honor to be one of the first programs to help usher in a new season of basketball in one of the most advanced arenas in the country,” said Cal coach Cuonzo Martin.
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said there is even more incentive for his team because of former area preps Malik Pope, Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams.
“We’re playing in a brand-new Sacramento Kings arena,” Fisher said. “Everyone will be excited about that, and D’Erryl and Dakarai and Malik will be going home to play.”
Allen, a former Bee Player of the Year, and Williams are seniors from Sheldon High School. Pope, a junior, played at Burbank and Laguna Creek.
Sac State and UC Davis also have former area prep standouts on their rosters.
UCD seniors Darius Graham and J.T. Adenrele played at Sacramento High and Oakmont, respectively. Sac State senior Eric Stuteville and freshman Matt Battaglia played at Casa Roble and Oak Ridge, respectively.
“For us Sac-area kids living and growing up here and going to Kings games at Arco Arena, it’s real big.” Graham said. “To play in the first college game there is big. And to play Sac State for bragging rights on the big stage is really big.”
Sac State and UC Davis have a four-year contract with the Kings.
“I think it will build into something because the date every year is always Nov. 21, which follows the Causeway Classic football game,” Katz said. “So it gives us the chance to build this into a real tradition.”