On The Road With the Matador Basketball Team ...
Editors Note: It is the longest road trip of the 2007-08 season for the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team. It's a six day trip that will cover thousands of miles on planes and in buses traveling from the Cal State Northridge campus to the states of Illinois, Ohio, Iowa and then back home. There is a little time for relaxing. There are four games to be played, practice time, scouting sessions and study hall. But the 14-man Matador team is focused for the task at hand. Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations), is traveling with the Matadors and offers this daily diary of the journey thus far.
Northridge, Ca - It is approximately 4:45 a.m. on a cold, Tuesday morning on the Cal State Northridge campus. On the Matador campus, there is no activity except near The Matadome where a group of basketball players from Cal State Northridge are preparing for what will be a tough, day-long trip from Southern California to the Midwest; Cleveland, Ohio, to be exact where the Matadors will face Cleveland State the following night.
To go from the West Coast to the Midwest is a day long excursion. Preparing for a road trip is no easy task for both players, coaches and staff. The players have spent the night before preparing for the trip, packing several suitcases with uniforms and warm clothing in addition to bringing school books and laptop computers to study during idle times on this trip which will last six days. It is the longest road trip of the season. The coaches have spent most of the previous night preparing detailed game plans, scouting reports, packing important video equipment and finalizing the travel itinerary for not only Wednesday's game at Cleveland State, but also for the trip to Des Moines, Iowa for a tournament which entails two games.
The team is scheduled to leave campus at 5:15 a.m., but the 14 players, four coaches (Bobby Braswell, Louis Wilson, Stan Johnson, James Blake), basketball operations director (Ryan Dodd), manager Jason Eubanks, athletic trainer Steve Grech and sports information director Bob Vazquez are packed and ready to go. The bus leaves campus ahead of schedule. The trip begins at 5:05 a.m., ten minutes ahead of the scheduled departure.
The bus trip to Los Angeles International Airport is easy by Southern California standards. There is little traffic at this early hour, and the drive from the San Fernando Valley takes less than 30 minutes. There is little chatter on the bus. It's a chance to get some sleep. The day's journey will be long.
To get to Cleveland is not easy. The airline flight leaves Los Angeles at 7:05 a.m. and arrives in Chicago three and a half hours later. It is a flight that runs into moderate turbulences over Colorado and doesn't end until the final minutes of the team's arrival in Chicago.
There is a two-hour layover, which gives the team a chance to eat lunch, study, write school papers on their laptop computers, or just catch a nap. Lunch at the airport is not cheap. For example, an ordinary oriental chicken salad and drink cost $13.
The flight from Chicago to Cleveland is only 90 minutes, but yet an adventure. The American Eagle plane is a smaller, computer plane with 60 seats. There is little head or leg room for a basketball team that features tall players, including 6-foot-9 center Tremaine Townsend. The other passengers on the plane are amazed on how the team is able to adjust to the limited space on the plane. The team doesn't complain. Being tall has everyday hazards.
Shortly after the team arrives at the hotel where the team will be housed for two nights in Cleveland, there is little time left to relax.
It's time to head for a 20-minute drive to the Cleveland State campus which is located in the downtown area near Jacobs Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians.
The team practices at the home court of Cleveland State, a 13,610 seat arena built in 1991 at a cost of $55 million. It is a spirited workout, the first opportunity on this Tuesday night to work up a good sweat, practice and focus on the task at hand, preparing for an important non-league game the following night against Cleveland State.
After the 90 minute workout that ends at 9:30 p.m., it's back to the hotel for a hearty dinner, a team meeting, and study time which ends the long day. Lights out at 11:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
It's game day. Thank goodness basketball is an indoor sport. The weather outside is cold (35 degrees), cloudy and windy in Cleveland.
After breakfast, the team buses to the arena for a noon one-hour practice at the Cleveland State arena. The mood is good, and the players are confident of victory against a tough opponent.
After the team returns to the hotel, there is a couple hours for study hall, followed by a pre-game meal. At 5:15 p.m., the team is back on the bus for the ride through rush hour traffic to Cleveland State.
Good news. The Matadors remain unbeaten with a 78-68 victory over Cleveland State. It's a great team effort, and in the locker room, head coach Bobby Braswell praises the team for its hard work.
Back on the bus, the players congratulate each other for a job well done. Back at the hotel, a post-game meal is available, and then curfew is imposed. The wakeup call on Thursday is early, and the team must prepare for its next destination, Des Moines, Ia.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Once again, the morning weather in Cleveland is cold, and the windy conditions bite through several layers of clothing. After checking in their luggage at the Cleveland airport, there is time for the players to eat breakfast, listen to music on their headphones, relax or get in some study time.
The team flies from Cleveland to Chicago, where again there is a layover which means another opportunity to eat, relax or study.
The flight from Chicago to Des Moines only takes a little more than an hour. Once on the ground, the temperature in Des Moines reads 43 degrees. The weather forecast calls for a snow storm on Saturday.
An evening practice at Drake University is followed by dinner at the hotel. The long day is nearly over. But first there is a team meeting to go over the scouting report for the next opponent. Then the players head back to their rooms to relax, study, watch television and get a good nights sleep.
Friday begins the Drake Invitational Tournament against the Matadors toughest opponent of the season - unbeaten Duquesne. The Dukes can play. They are averaging 92.5 ppg, second-best in the nation.
Friday's game starts at 3:00 p.m. (pacific time). The game can be heard on the internet at www.gomatadors.com with Alan Zinsmeister and Bob Vazquez.
The team will play again on Saturday at the Drake Tournament, and then return home on Sunday. Home Sweet Home.