NEW YORK — The gray area of non-traditional uniforms is coming to college basketball.
Nike unveiled its new “platinum” line Wednesday to be worn by nine powerhouse men’s and women’s teams for one game each later this season. Like the gaudy outfits that have become so popular in college football, these take liberties with the programs’ standard color schemes.
“We feel we have the opportunity to create as much energy as they do on the football field,” said Tracy Teague, global creative director for Nike Basketball.
Fans tuning in might need to look at the score to figure out who the squad in gray is. The jerseys and shorts are trimmed in some – but not necessarily all – of the schools’ official hues. So Baylor has gold but not green, the Connecticut women red but not blue. The UConn men’s trim is a dark navy that almost looks black.
And the shades chosen are “electric,” reminiscent of the fluorescent tints Oregon football is famous for. Syracuse might have to change its nickname to the Neon Orange for its one game in these outfits.
“We definitely get excited about it. I think players care about the way they look,” North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall said. “I know if I played football, Oregon would be in my top five no matter who I was.”
The team names are in a reflective silver material, while the back of the jersey features a large school logo in contrasting shades of gray. Above the number is a star for each of the program’s national championships; the players’ name is below.
The teams selected have won NCAA titles wearing Nike gear: the Arizona, UConn, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse men and the Baylor and UConn women.
Alternate uniforms are nothing new in college basketball, with black an especially popular choice in the past. Individual schools had previously requested gray jerseys from Nike, but this is the first time the company has created a standardized line for basketball.
The platinum color looks good on the court, Teague said at a launch event Wednesday in Manhattan.
Some fans might balk at the departure from tradition, but others rush to the merchandise shop to buy a gray jersey. And those 18- to 22-year-olds wearing the uniforms love them – as do those 16- and 17-year-old recruits considering these schools.
“Sometimes I almost think we don’t push it fast enough for them,” Teague said of introducing new design innovations.
“I would say today’s kid isn’t nearly as traditional as maybe kids who came before them,” he added.
When Nike reps talk to those slightly-older-than-22 college coaches, they don’t just sell them on the competitive advantages of the lightweight materials used in the uniforms.
“As much as there’s the physical aspect of the game, there’s this emotional side of wanting to look great,” Teague said.
Syracuse players had split opinions on their uniforms. Guard Dion Waiters is already a fan of bright colors, the only player on the team to wear orange socks.
“It’s different. I like the ‘CUSE’ (on the front) and I like the big S on the back,” he said. “It’s kind of hot, the orange and the gray.”
Forward Kris Joseph had only seen them on the Internet but didn’t like his first impression.
The new look will debut when the UConn men face Notre Dame on Sunday. Kentucky will wear them against Tennessee on Feb. 22; Arizona against UCLA on Feb. 25; UConn women against Notre Dame on Feb. 27; and North Carolina against Maryland on Feb. 29.