Many drastic changes have been seen in the first few games the Rutgers men’s basketball team has played at the Rutgers Athletic Center this season. While most of the focus is on the improvement of the Scarlet Knights on the court under head coach Steve Pikiell in his first year in Piscataway, there have been some dramatic differences in the behavior of the crowd.
It began in the season opener against Malloy College, when a member of the Rutgers’ band hit the dab — a dance invented by Skippa da Flippa and popularized to a national audience by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton — during a media timeout.
But it wasn’t until the sixth home contest of the season against Morgan State that the dance spilled outside the corner where the band sits, and into the student section. Once there, it turned a single student into a micro-celebrity.
Robert Suriano, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, took the dance an extra mile, dabbing for the entirety of a media timeout in the second half of the most competitive game the RAC has seen this season.
“It was less of a conscious decision and more of just the spirit of the game taking me over,” Suriano said in a phone interview the day after the game. “The play on the court manifested itself in me dabbing and once it started, it was kind of like a snowball effect and I couldn’t stop it.”
Like others before him, Suriano took advantage of the spotlight during a recurring “Minute of Madness” segment the Knights’ held at every home game.
Normally, multiple cameramen scan the crowd to find people who would thrive under the spotlight, jumping from fan to fan to add variety.
But upon noticing his relentless pursuit of dabbing the entire minute, the cameraman stationed by the student section would not move his feed away from Suriano. So after a few seconds of diversion to another fan being immersed in Suriano’s act of showmanship, the jumbotron would return its focus to his dabbing marathon.
“Once I noticed he wasn’t going away, I couldn’t stop,” he said. “It took a lot of stamina, but I consider myself an athlete of dabbing, so I pushed through like the guys on the court, like (sophomore guard) Corey (Sanders) and (senior center) C.J. (Gettys).”
A fan of Rutgers athletics since attending his first Knights’ football game —the “Pandemonium in Piscataway” upset of No. 3 Louisville in 2006, regarded by many to be the greatest win in program history — Suriano has been to at least a few basketball games every year since, he said.
In doing so he said he’s watched “a lot of bad Rutgers basketball,” something he hasn’t encountered on his trips to the RAC so far this year.
While Suriano acknowledges that the teams Rutgers have defeated aren’t exactly national title contenders — Rutgers has the weakest non-conference schedule of all 351 Division I programs, according to KenPom — he subscribes the philosophy of every win counting the same.
“It’s very exciting,” he said of the team’s fast start. “You could feel the energy after a run in the whole crowd, so it’s a great time to be a Rutgers basketball fan.”
It’s been so great, Suriano was seen at the RAC during the game it hosted on Tuesday night to watch Rutgers crush Central Connecticut State in its most complete performance so far this year.
Suriano once again captivated the crowd in Piscataway, dabbing his way through the entire "Minute of Madness" segment in the second media timeout of the second half as the Knights finished their seventh straight win at home on cruise control.
Whether fans will have a third installment in the series remains to be seen.
“I did have, walking out of the arena (Saturday night), some people coming up to me saying they liked my dabbing skills," he said. "If the spirit hits me again, I can. But you gotta move on sometimes,” he said. “You don’t want it to become stale.”