University of Georgia head coach Tom Crean visits the fans to to thank them for their support following the game. The University of Georgia men’s basketball team faced the Vanderbilt Commodores to win by a score of 82-63 on Jan. 9th, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo: Kathryn Skeean)

Anthony Edwards tried to swallow his nerves as he stood in the tunnel at Stegeman Coliseum Friday night. Smoke billowed around him, partly from the fog machine and partly from the small fireworks display lining the walkway. Finally, the announcer called for No. 5. 

“I was just thinking don’t be too scared [or] nervous,” Edwards said. “The seniors told me what’s good — what to do — get out there, throw the shirts, show the crowd a good time. So that’s what I did.”

"Stegmania" was the first appearance of the nation's No. 2 overall recruit in 2019, according to the 247Sports Composite, in front of a home Georgia crowd — a crowd of 6,234 fans, to be exact. 

The attendance for Georgia basketball’s second annual "Stegmania" was up 805 people from last year, but for men’s basketball head coach Tom Crean and women’s basketball head coach Joni Taylor, increased attendance at "Stegmania" is only a stepping stone to what they want from Georgia fans. Ultimately, they want a packed coliseum. 

“It just provides the energy and the atmosphere,” Taylor said. “Our job is to recruit the best student athletes that are going to represent the University of Georgia and help us win, and Bulldog nation’s responsibility is to come here … and provide the atmosphere.”

Each coach addressed the crowd and called for fans to fill the stands this season. Crean announced that, for the first time in history, men’s basketball season tickets are sold out. 

“I want to thank you for making history,” Crean said to the crowd. 

Taylor said the women’s basketball season ticket sales are up from last year, “but there’s still some room to grow.”

The programs have a simple formula for growing attendance: winning games. Wins are the key to filling Stegeman for Edwards, Crean, Taylor and the rest of both Georgia basketball teams. Edwards compared basketball attendance to a Saturday football game in Sanford Stadium.

“We [have] got to win. Fans love to see people win,” Edwards said. “That’s why the football team’s stadium is always filled, because they’re winning. So, we [have] got to win.”

The Friday night crowd fell just short of filling the lower bowl of Stegeman Coliseum, but they were provided with an array of entertainment from both teams nonetheless. 

The evening began with a shooting competition among Georgia students, followed by an entrance from Bill Goldberg and introductions of both teams. The women’s team had a 3-point contest, followed by a performance from Blanco Brown and a dunk competition between men’s players. The night ended with a scrimmage between a red and a white team of men’s players, and an autograph session followed.  

At the end of the second "Stegmania," Taylor had one order for Georgia fans.

“Come to the games. Fill the stands,” Taylor said. “And bring someone with you.”

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