Autumn Walter |CIGAR| John “JV” Vanner Jr. calls it a career after 10-seasons as URI basketball hype-man.
URI hype-man calls it a career
Somethings have changed over the past ten years surrounding the University of the Rhode Island men’s basketball team. The team has seen a head coaching change, another Atlantic 10 Championship and another trip to the NCAA tournament. One thing has stayed the same over the last ten seasons, the hype man John “J.V.” Vanner Jr.
Vanner has been the URI men’s basketball hype man and the Rhody Ruckus’ lead ambassador since the start of the 2007-08 season. You’ll find him at all men’s basketball home games pumping up the crowd, promoting sponsors and making sure the students are having a good time. His love for the URI and its athletic department runs deeper than what happens on winter nights inside the Ryan Center.
A 2008 graduate of URI, it was destiny for Vanner to become a Rhody Ram. “I was pretty much born here,” Vanner said about URI. “My father met my mother here on campus. I grew up pretty much living on this campus. It was basically a foregone conclusion that I was going to attend this University.”
Vanner has seen his fair share of ups and downs between being a fan, student and hype man. With the Rams on the cusp of their second straight NCAA tournament appearance, all seems to be well in Kingston. However, Vanner remembers that not always being the case.
“When we first started I was doing what I do now in front of sometimes 2,000 people,” Vanner recalled. “The fanbase, the school was super down on the team. There were some rough days when I’d leave here [the Ryan Center] not feeling good about what happened. I am passionate about the University, but sometimes the passion wasn’t being reciprocated. It was just me yelling by myself out there, begging people to make noise and cheer on the team.”
Vanner has been surrounded by the men’s basketball team since he was a young kid due in part to his father, John Vanner Sr., who is an associate athletic director for the University.
When the Rams made it to the Elite Eight in 1998 with Jim Harrick at the helm, Vanner was 11 years old. He said he reflects back to that season as what sold him and why he fell in love with the program.
“That team was the first team I really harped in on,” Vanner said. “Tyson Wheeler is one of my favorite Rams I got to watch. I was lucky enough to be around the University, so I got to know those guys pretty well.”
Vanner said it took a lot for him to walk away from the job and he is still struggling with the decision. He just hopes that someone else will come along that is just as passionate as he is and can take away the same memories that he did.
Now, Vanner can enjoy the game as a traditional, die hard fan, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be absent come gameday.
“Ultimately I am running around so much I don’t get to enjoy the game as a fan,” Vanner said. “As long as I am physically here I will be at every game that I can possibly be at. I’m not going anywhere. You’ll still here me yelling. I’m pretty sure I’ll start some, ‘Rhody, Rhody, Rhody’ chants, I just won’t have a microphone in my hand.”
Vanner will take certain aspects of the job with him. One thing seemed to stick out more than anything else: the people.
“I’m going to miss everything,” Vanner said. “I love just getting here early and watching the crowd fill in. I love that swell that happens when we are making a push or a run and the place just explodes. I love seeing new freshman students. It’s been crazy to see multiple classes of students come in and watch them as they grow up and graduate and come back. It’s been awesome seeing and creating new life-long fans. That’s been one of the most rewarding parts is being apart of that.”
For the past ten seasons, fans have grown up with Vanner’s voice and personality as a part of their Rhode Island basketball experience. Whether it be in front of 1,500 fans in 2013 or in front of a sellout crowd in 2018, Rhode Island basketball is better from having Vanner apart of it. It has become tradition. Similar to a Jimmy Baron three or a Hassan Martin block, Vanner’s presence on the mic made gameday that much better. Whoever is next has some big shoes to fill.