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The Painters Show Off Their Husky Spirit

April 3, 2017

They have names like Zach, Marc and Jordan. They are from places like Glastonbury, Cheshire and Madison and have majors like human rights, finance and biology.

For most Husky fans, though, they are known as letters like I, U, C and sometimes a heart and even once, a boat.

They are visible at UConn men's and women's basketball games at Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center and also have been at football games at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.

UConn fans also recognize them from countless shots on ESPN, CBS and SNY and they were recently featured on HBO's UConn: The March To Madness.

The group doesn't really have a formal name, although most of them are members of the UConn chapter of fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu.

For most, however, they are simply: "the guys who paint themselves for the games."

"I started to get a group organized in my freshman year of 2013-14," said the group's leader Zach McKinstry, a native of Woodbridge, Conn., who participated in lacrosse and track and field at Amity High School. "I grew up a big UConn fan as a kid and loved Ray Allen, Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier. I even had a Jim Calhoun bobble head doll in my room."

The group's first appearance was for a women's game when they painted "I Love Stef" for the personable Stefanie Dolson.

"She came over after the game and took a picture we us. She loved it and we were hooked," said McKinstry.

The group gets together before each game and decides what to paint. What have been the most difficult efforts for them?

"We did `Boat Show 11' for Ryan Boatright with one person having a ship on their chest at the end for a men's basketball game and then we did `We Are UConn Nation' for a football game," said McKinstry.

They also did "100 & Counting" for the women's basketball historic win over South Carolina for the team's 100th-straight win.

It takes the group about an hour to 90 minutes to prepare for a game and they go through about three to four bottles of water-based paint per contest. To get prime seats, they arrive to the game about two hours in advance.

McKinstry graduates from UConn this spring, but is hopeful the tradition will continue, as there are a strong number of underclassmen in the group. For his part, McKinstry is a finance major who has done an internship at Sikorsky Aircraft and will work at UTC following graduation.

The entire group consists of McKinstry, Daniel Epstein from Cheshire, Conn., and a psychological sciences and human rights major; Alexander Dobensky of Glastonbury, Conn., and a finance major; James Powell of Madison, Conn., and a natural resources major; Blake Wetmore of Cheshire, Conn., and an actuarial science major; Marc Himmel of Westport, Conn., and a mechanical engineering major; Steven Tucker of Mansfield, Conn., and a journalism major; Jordan Vogel of Willington, Conn., and a biology major; Nicholas Poirier of Glastonbury, Conn., and a communications major; and Jarred Mantis of Glastonbury, Conn., and an economics major.

-Mike Enright