COLLEGE PARK -- Amidst the smoke and darkness from a corner in Comcast Center last night emerged a shiny, black, 1960 Cadillac convertible, overflowing with dapperly dressed members of the 2007-08 men's basketball team.
Their exuberant entrance was as fitting and proper as their white suits, considering senior forward Bambale Osby's love for Cadillacs, of which he has four.
Maryland Madness last night - at least from Osby's view in the front seat - in one word was "ex-cit-ing."
The women's team came out in their little black dresses and shook their tambourines and more. Both teams flaunted their hip-hop moves and had the crowd rocking as practices officially began in a nearly packed gym, with each team scrimmaging for about 10 minutes.
Just when it seemed as if the theatrics of the night had reached a peak, an engine revved up. Maryland coach Gary Williams cruised onto the court in a canary-yellow Lamborghini. He got out of the car, and gave his traditional fist pump as the Shop Boyz hip-hop beat "Party Like a Rock Star" thumped in the background.
"That's my ride," he told the crowd. "I wish it was."
"Now as we get ready for the start of the season, I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I think we have a great chance to be very successful this year. We're all very fortunate here at Maryland to have two great basketball teams at the same school. That doesn't happen very often. Our women's program is where most of the schools in the country are trying to get to. Come out and see both of us play."
Fans saw that and more last night.
His players had donned white top hats, rented white suits, black sunglasses and red bow ties - and their Nike basketball shoes. The Cadillac was on loan from one of Osby's friends.
"It was his idea to come out in a Cadillac," senior forward James Gist said. "Coach was cool with it. We're having fun today. Tomorrow we start practice and that's when the real fun begins. ... That's just the beginning right there."
As Maryland's daring Gymkana team got more impressive and more dangerous with its burning ring of fire, it was still hard not to notice Greivis Vasquez, who was the lone player cheering with his white top hat on - albeit a little crooked.
The women's team was the first to be introduced, and entered the court through a tunnel of smoke and green laser beams while pyrotechnics flared on each side of both baskets. The women have four starters returning from last year's 28-6 finish. Despite the loss of Shay Doron, who graduated last May as the program's second all-time leading scorer, the Terps return 83.1 percent of last year's scoring and 86.6 percent of their rebounding.
"We have a special theme and special motto this season," said coach Brenda Frese, who is expecting twins March 11. "There are two Terp fans in here," she said, patting her stomach. "But before these two Terp fans come out, it's about this team, and we're going to have twice as much fun this year."
Each member of the men's team entered down a different set of stairs, slapping hands with fans and striking poses before they made (or in Osby's case missed) their first dunk of the season.
In addition to putting on a show for the fans, both teams also did what they could to impress the handful of recruits in Comcast Center last night. Sitting in the front row was Baltimore's Sean Mosley, who is expected to sign a letter of intent in November.
"It's a very different feeling because in a couple of months I see myself coming out of the locker room with those guys and just having fun," he said.
Also among the men's recruits were Jin Soo Kim, a small forward from Connecticut who is in the class of 2009, and Ater Majok, who was on an official visit from Australia and is in the class of 2008. He said Maryland is among his top five, along with Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Baylor.
"We just got to know each other a lot more," he said of Williams. "He's a great person."
Apparently he can drive, too.