Midnight Madness 2018: A night of basketball and hoop dreams for city youth

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Coach Sudi Lett talks the talk to some of his incoming Central basketball team members during a free week-long community summer skills clinic he organized at Sheridan-Emmet Park. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – Last August Manchester native and longtime youth basketball coach Sudi Lett wanted to find a way to bring together the young players in Manchester who, over the years, were part of Bishop Elite AAU, a recreational youth basketball program founded by Lett. Through social media and word of mouth, Lett spread the news about an end-of-summer event, Midnight Madness Open Run. He never anticipated the massive turnout for the event.

NBA rookie – and former Manchester Bishop Elite player – Wenyen Gabriel chats with one of the kids who attended a summer skills clinic at Sheridan-Emmet Park. Photo/Carol Robidoux

​“We had 70 kids show up to play on one court, with less than two days notice,” says Lett. “This year, we have three courts, and I’m better prepared for more kids to show up.”

​Lett has spent his summer reconnecting with young basketball players in the city, including hosting a free week-long basketball clinic at Sheridan-Emmet Park in June. Now, he is preparing for the second annual Midnight Madness Open Run. This year, he has secured three courts at Saint Anselm College for Aug. 18, where he anticipates as many as 100 players showing up for the event.

All in the Bishop Elite Family: From left, Coach Sudi Lett, Wenyen Gabriel, and fellow Bishop Elite coach Terry Mann, during 2017 Midnight Madness. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“It’s a basic pick-up basketball format where winners stay,” says Lett. “Everyone is welcome to participate.”

​Lett has been coaching recreational basketball for more than 10 years as a founding coach of Bishop Elite, so named because they used to practice and play at Bishop O’Neil gym on Elm Street. The program focused on athletics and academics, and nurtured the talents of many of NHIAA’s best players, including Lehigh University’s Troy Pelletier, SNHU’s Devin Gilligan, and Wenyen Gabriel, a new pick for the Sacramento Kings NBA team. He’s looking forward to having many of these young stars returning to the court for this year’s Midnight Madness Open Run.



​“The young kids are excited to meet and compete against the older guys, but the best part of this event is that it gives our young guys roots in New Hampshire,” says Lett. “I have guys flying in from Chicago and Texas for this event. It’s special and It’s definitely going to be a fun night.”

As summer winds down, Lett is preparing for a new chapter in his own life – he starts his first season as Central High School’s basketball coach this winter. Before being hired at Central, Lett worked as the head coach for the boys basketball team at Litchfield’s Campbell High School for three years. Now, he’s returning to his alma mater to coach the Little Green in the Division 1 season.

Zach Jones, left, with Coach Sudi Lett, showing off his Bishop Elite “Family” ink during 2017 Midnight Madness. Photo/Carol Robidoux

​“I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I know it will be a challenge, but I’m ready,” says Lett.

Young people sixth grade and older from anywhere around New Hampshire interested in attending Midnight Madness should report to the Stoutenburgh Gym at Saint Anselm College at 9 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 18. The event runs until midnight. This year, the event is sponsored by SWIMNH.com, but Lett says they are still in need of sponsors willing to help with the cost of food, drinks, and prizes for players.

“Last year we had T-shirts for teams that won five games in a row,” says Lett. “This year we don’t have shirts, but what it’s really all about is bragging rights”

Lett says he is gratified to be able offer this free event to kids, many of whom may not otherwise have opportunities to participate in organized sports. As Lett and his team spend the final days preparing for the event, they welcome community donations. You can contact Sudi Lett at sudi.lett@gmail.com or on Instagram at @snl15 to learn more.

“It’s all about having fun and improving your game,” Lett says. “Everyone’s just trying to get better.”