By Haley Stesiak:
When you walk in to Grand Canyon University Arena on a game night, you’re greeted by a pumping bass and the cheers of thousands of the Lopes’ biggest fans.
The GCU student section, known as ‘The Havocs,’ show up in swarms and stay to the end of every game, win or lose.
The Havocs received national attention recently, after Louisville head coach Rick Pitino deemed GCU’s atmosphere tougher than those at Duke and Kentucky.
“In college basketball, my 40-plus years, (that) was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” Pitino said.
See ya tonight, Lope fans! pic.twitter.com/VhuRvFqpQC
— GCU Havocs (@GCUHavocs) December 7, 2016
Steve Hunsaker is a senior at GCU and The Havocs’ president. Hunsaker has been a part of the group since it’s beginning in 2012.
“I was just in the crowd, front row every game and I fell in love with it,” Hunsaker said to Sports360AZ.com. “I love this school more than anything, I love these students more than anything. It’s a dream job and honestly, it’s the best job I’m going to have in my entire life.”
The leaders of The Havocs make sure their student section stands out from others across the country with synchronized choreography, vice president Karsten Kem said.
“We like to do everything together as a group, whether it’s swaying back and forth or pointing at the other team, that’s what we love,” Kem said.
In addition to compiling game day choreography, the leaders also coordinate dorm activities, pre-game events and even create scouting reports on opposing teams.
Why does GCU have to be this petty? pic.twitter.com/DyOzC4ogd8
— Alex Dorsey (@Alex14999) December 8, 2016
With a growing student population, social media plays a large role in getting news and announcements out to the campus, marketing director Abbie Ploeser said.
“Social media definitely does promote us nationally because it’s such a wide platform,” Ploeser said. “People can see a post that we’ve posted from Phoenix, Arizona all the way in Atlanta, Georgia. Social media has given us some leverage to create some national attention and buzz about GCU.”
The events and hype leading up to the games are fun, but the most exciting part is the action itself, Ploeser said.
“My favorite part about the student section definitely is in-game, when we have a really good play and you can feel the energy and students get super excited…you can just feel the passion they have for GCU,” Ploeser said.
That passion is felt with every shot that goes up. The tension in the crowd as the ball soars towards the basket makes each shot feel like it’s the game-winner.
“They do an awesome job, we feed off their energy,” GCU guard Gerard Martin said. “As soon as they go nuts, we start playing better…they’re a huge part of our success.”
Martin is a redshirt sophomore from Manly, Australia. The support from the students at GCU makes being so far from home easier, he said.
“Coming from another country (and) not having my family here, having all these people support us is second to none,” Martin said. “These games are rockin’. You try to explain it to people back home, and you show them videos…it’s just not the same until you actually sit in these seats and you hear it (and) you see what they do.”
GCU basketball head coach, Dan Majerle said The Havocs are a “true home court advantage.”
“I love that crowd, they are unbelievable, they keep you going,” Majerle said. “I mean, our guys are dog-tired, with a student section and a crowd like that, we can do amazing things.”