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VIDEO: Students Show Off Bronco Pride at First Annual "Rock the Zoo"

by Carolyn Binder

Note: For WMU Basketball score updates, text BRONCOS to 80373

KALAMAZOO (WKZO) – Entering his 11th year at the helm of the WMU Men’s Basketball program, Steve Hawkins has taken the hands on approach to interacting with the student fan base. Students who have visited University Arena for a basketball game are familiar with “The Zoo”, but Coach Hawkins took it a step further this week with a student-centered event called “Rock the Zoo”.

“Breakfast with the Broncos is a tradition that is for our community, and we’re hoping to make Rock the Zoo an annual tradition for our students,” Hawkins said.

Hundreds of students turned out for a shoot around, free food and prizes, and a meet and greet with the Bronco basketball team. The night was highlighted by a performance from former Bronco Pat Cleland. Cleland, who performs as Rick Chyme, addressed the students before unveiling a song he wrote as an anthem for the program.

"It means a lot to have this many fans come out on a Thursday night and support us like this," said Hawkins.  "I've seen 'The Zoo' improve every year since I've been here, and an event like tonight shows that our fans are the best in the MAC."

The 2013-14 edition of Bronco basketball features a mix of tested leadership with plenty of talented new faces. As part of their early practice sessions, the team participated in “The Program,” which is an intense team-building exercise designed to build toughness, dedication, and the importance of being a family on and off the court.

“It’s easy as a coach to sit back and say you have leadership, but The Program defined leadership for this team,” said Hawkins.

That point was reiterated by Redshirt Senior Center Shayne Whittington.

“The Program was tough, but that is by design,” Whittington said with a smile. “It really brought out the best in our team, and brought us together as one unit to achieve the goals we set.”

Western Michigan opens their season with a pair of exhibition games before playing in a four team tournament in Hawaii. They begin defense of their MAC West title on January 8th at home against Toledo. Follow the Broncos all season long on the Bronco Radio Network .