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Albany Tech holds Midnight Madness to kick off hoops season

Albany Tech freshman Rawlings Okivie throws down a one-handed dunk during Tuesday’s Midnight Madness slam-dunk contest, which he won over his fellow Titan teammates. Brandon Quarterman won the men’s 3-point contest, while Quiondra Darrisaw was the women’s 3-point champion. (Staff photos: John Millikan)

Albany Tech freshman Rawlings Okivie throws down a one-handed dunk during Tuesday’s Midnight Madness slam-dunk contest, which he won over his fellow Titan teammates. Brandon Quarterman won the men’s 3-point contest, while Quiondra Darrisaw was the women’s 3-point champion. (Staff photos: John Millikan)

ALBANY — Albany Tech coach Sylvester Patterson had watched Rawlings Okivie throw down one highlight-reel dunk after another during Tuesday night’s Midnight Madness slam dunk contest.

Okivie, a 6-foot-4 Albany Tech freshman and grad of Peachtree Ridge High School, thrilled the crowd during both the slam dunk contest and the Titans’ intra-squad scrimmage, which kicked off the team’s 2013-14 season.

But as the fans were filing out of HPER Gymnasium and his players were casually showing off with a few more dunks to conclude the evening, Patterson tossed the basketball to Okivie.

“Give me one more dunk,” Patterson said.

Okivie didn’t disappoint, floating through the air and up toward the rim for a final rim-shattering slam.

“I was born to dunk,” said Okivie, who is a native of Nigeria. “I have always been able to. I have never done any leg work or anything, but I have just always had that natural athleticism to dunk.”

Okivie won the slam dunk contest, an event that followed the men’s and women’s 3-point contests, which were won by Brandon Quarterman and Quiondra Darrisaw. The Lady Titans and Titans then played in back-to-back intrasquad scrimmages to conclude the event, which ushered in the first official day for NJCAA basketball practices.

Hundreds of fans came out to watch the two-hour event, a crowd that has Okivie excited for next month’s season opener.

“We came out here to have fun, and we saw a lot of faces from Albany Tech and Albany State who came out to support us,” Okivie said. “We just hope we can get this kind of support during the season. This was a fun night for us.”

Okivie was just one of Albany Tech’s athletes who showed off their talents during the skills competitions, and Patterson said it was a preview of excitement to come during the regular season.

“We plan on getting up and down the court,” Patterson said. “This is how we played two or three years ago. We tried something new, and it didn’t work last year. So we went back to what we know.”

Kenneth Williams enters his fifth year as the head women’s coach at Albany Tech, and he was equally excited about Tuesday’s turnout.

“Hopefully we can get some excitement within the community and get some crowds here,” he said. “As you know, when we have crowds here it’s like a sixth man and helps us play a whole lot better. … This is by far one of the largest crowds we have ever had.”