Seasons greetings. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. Well, we have been on a whirlwind tour since we have played Pepperdine at home on November 23rd. Our travels have been interesting along with our play.
To start our series of road trips we flew to Sioux Falls South Dakota then drove to Brookings to play South Dakota State. When we arrived in Brookings all of the locals kept telling us that we were just in time for the big storm coming in. I though ‘alright, we can handle a little bit of snow flakes.' Little did I know that the storm that we would experience was a blizzard and would throw a wrench in our game-plan.
First, I was faced with the issue of finding a different source of transportation to our shoot around on the day of the game. Forty-five minutes prior to our departure I learned that our bus driver broke his key in the lock of the bus because over night the lock had frozen.
Great, how was I going to get our team to shoot around with such little time?
We were going to have the owners of the hotel drive the guys in their cars to the facility. Luckily, the local shuttle bus company was able to accommodate us and send a driver for us right away. We managed to get the team to the gym on time.
Next, the officials for the basketball game were stuck in Sioux Falls and could not make it to Brookings because the highways were closed by that time. We were stuck with the dilemma of whether or not to play the game because our only other option was to play with local officials. We knew there was a chance that there was a big possibility for the game to get out of hand with a couple of lower level referees from Brookings. Needless to say we played the game and won.
The next morning I woke up early to learn that although the snow had stopped falling, transportation was still an issue. To start with, our flight was delayed by an hour and a half and the roads were still closed. Then we found out that the roads would open at 9am but then our flight was canceled. Fortunately, we had a bus company lined up to get us to Manhattan Kansas. It only took us three buses to get there but we made it on time for practice. We switched buses in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Omaha, Nebraska before we finally arrived in Manhattan. We made it to Kansas State just in time to put together a dreadful performance that just happened to be televised. After our experience in the mid-west we made it home to beautiful southern California to defrost and get our team straightened away.
Our next road trip was to San Francisco to play in the University of San Francisco tournament. Travel to northern California was much easier and USF put us up in the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf, a location that gives you a great feel for the City.
We played Chicago State in the first game and won. It was an ugly win because we gave up a significant lead in the second half but were still able to pull it off. We had to bounce back from our rough play and get ready to play USF in the Championship game of the tournament the next day.
We played the first 33 minutes of that Championship game great and then we experienced a complete melt down the remaining part of the game. At first it seemed like our team was starting to figure it out and we would be on our way to having a great rest of the season.
Then we shut down defensively giving up a 19 point lead and allowing Dommanic Ingerson to hit a couple of crucial three point shots on us. Justin Burns then fouled out, moving Frank Robinson to the 4 spot which made it difficult for us to rebound. Needless to say we lost the game in overtime, and our staff was obviously not happy. That night we watched film with the team in Coach Burton's room and he promised them that they would not lose a game like that again because he would not allow them to. When we got back home during finals week where practices were very tough and extremely defense oriented.
After finals we traveled to Coach Burton's hometown, San Jose, to play the Spartans. It was sort of an ugly game as all games are following finals. But our team played hard and picked it up in the 2nd half to win the game. Coach was happy to win in front of all of his friends and family.
Finally, we traveled to Miami, Florida to play in the Florida International Tournament. We practiced at 3pm at home on Christmas Day, left the school at 7:30pm to fly out of LAX at 10pm. We arrived in Florida at 6am on the 26th and went straight to the hotel to sleep for a few hours.
In the afternoon we got the team up to go eat lunch in South Beach. An hour before leaving we got the news that Andrew Awad, a former player, passed away, losing his battle to cancer. The guys were pretty upset, but we decided to still go to South Beach and keep them altogether as a team. On the way there Coach Burton talked to the team about Drew and how much he meant to us and how tough he was which I think made the guys feel a little bit better.
It was quite an experience for our team to get to the true flavor of Miami, even if it was only for an hour and a half. Most of our team ate at Mango's, a happening restaurant located on Ocean Drive.
We then returned to the hotel to lock in and focus on our first opponent, University of Texas San Antonio, watching film, going through the scouting report, and then went to practice at Florida International later that night. We played UTSA and were up seven at half but were not playing well the entire game and ended up losing. Our guys did not come focused and ready to play like our opponent (UTSA had a bunch of relentless players that brought it the entire game). Once again, our staff was discouraged by our lack of effort and Coach Burton let them know about it.
The next morning we watched film of our game from the night before to show them our mistakes. We then went to FIU to walk through Florida International's personnel and offenses. Let's just say that our team definitely responded to Coach Burton's challenge, and came ready to play and our opponent did not. It was nice to see our team bounce back, playing together and with great effort. I think our team learned that we are not good enough to just show up and play the game, but if we play hard every night we have the ability to be a pretty good team.
We finally returned home on January 2nd to put together an incredibly poor performance.
Our team seems to be unpredictable so far but we had a great practice yesterday and intend on our team showing up ready to play today versus UC Santa Barbara. We appreciate all of the fans support and will hopefully see all of you this afternoon!
See you soon,
Cal State Fullerton Men's Basketball