CUTigers takes you behind the scenes of Clemson basketball as the Tigers travelled to Blacksburg, Va. to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies last season:
4:40 p.m. - It's a cool Wednesday afternoon in January. The Clemson men's Basketball team begins to gather outside the chartered bus that is waiting to take them to the airport. The players have just finished up a two hour practice to put the finishing touches on the game plan for their contest at Virginia Tech tomorrow. A practice of this nature is the way every road trip begins for Oliver Purnell and his squad.
For most fans a basketball game means watching a two hour sprint up and down a court. For a player, a game is a carefully orchestrated 30-plus hour process to get the most out of themselves and the team. Plans for this trip began back in July when Michael Morrell, Director of Basketball Operations, was busy booking hotels and scheduling airline flights. Now that it's game time it's just a matter of following a carefully laid out Itinerary.
4:45 p.m. - Players load their luggage onto the Champion bus. They grab a bottled drink and sandwich that the team manager has waiting on them and find a seat. Players sit in the back with coaches and support staff up front. Coach Purnell and wife, Vicky, can always be found on the front row beside the door. Clemson will take 36 people on this trip including players, coaches, trainers, academic staff, broadcast crew, and other University personnel. It's a short 20 minute ride to Anderson Regional Airport.
5:05 p.m. - The bus pulls alongside the chartered jet that is waiting on the tarmac. Freshmen have the responsibility of transferring the luggage from the bus to the plane's cargo bay. All other travelers begin to load the plane. Coach Purnell takes a moment to walk over to a few fans that are there to see the team off. He always does this when time will allow.
5:15 p.m. - The 50 seat ExpressJet Embraer-145 is loaded and underway. The seating arrangements are the same on the plane as they were on the bus. It's almost dark now and the back of the plane is quiet as the players relax from the practice they finished just a short time ago. Some are listening to iPods, studying for upcoming classes, or watching a movie.
"For most fans a basketball game means watching a two hour sprint up and down a court. For a player, a game is a carefully orchestrated 30+ hour process to get the most out of themselves and the team." (Roy Philpott)
7:00 p.m. - The bus arrives in front of The Inn at Virginia Tech. It's a beautiful hotel on the outskirts of campus and is laced with the same stone that is in all buildings on campus. As the bus comes to a stop, team personnel pass out envelopes to the players which contain room keys and schedules for the rest of the trip.
7:15 p.m. - Players have dropped off their luggage in their rooms and begin to meet in a private dining room in the hotel. The buffet-style dinner is waiting on them. The food choices were selected by the team trainer weeks in advance and prepared by the hotel. Andy Farrell, the video services member of the coaching staff, has already set up the projector and screen that will be used during the team meeting after dinner.
8:00 p.m. - Support staff are excused from the dining room and the coaches and players begin their team meeting. They go over strategy for the upcoming game as well as watch game film of the Virginia Tech squad.
9:45 p.m. - After seven straight hours of basketball-related activity, players are free to go. Most return to their rooms long before the 11:30 curfew. The hotel accommodations consist of two players to a room. Most of the time the coaches let the players decide who they room with for the year but will occasionally change things up if they feel it will help the team. On this particular trip, Trevor Booker is paired up with Andre Young. Booker has 30-plus travel games under his belt while Young is only on his sixth.
Thursday, 9:30 a.m. - The team returns to the same dining room for breakfast. This meal is rather quiet just like all the others. The team meeting is supposed to begin at 10:30 but Coach Purnell is ready to go by 10:15. Just like the night before, the players finish their meals and turn to view the video screen that is still in the room. This is a short meeting but an important one. It is the final time the players get to see the Hokies on film before the contest tonight.
11:00 a.m. - Back on the bus for the five minute ride to the arena. Players are already suited up for practice and everyone is completely in the "business trip" mood that Coach Purnell reminds them of on a regular basis. This team is, in fact, all business and personal conduct is rarely if ever an issue with this squad.
11:05 a.m. - The players enter the arena through the a service entrance. For the freshmen on the squad it is the first time they have been in Cassell Coliseum. The players dig into the team basketball bag and begin shooting to try to get a feel for the court. 10 minutes later the team is called together for group stretching. Next, assistant coaches [Ron] Bradley and [Frank] Smith break the team up in to groups and begins walking through some of the offensive and defensive plays that will be used tonight. Coach Purnell observes and watches for ways to fine tune or correct the teams strategy. Towards the end of practice, coach Bradley continues this work on one end of the court and coach Purnell works with players, three at a time, on free throw shooting on the other end. Purnell always stands under the goal, shagging balls, and encouraging his foul shooters not to break the streak of made baskets during the practice.
7:07 p.m. - The ball is tipped and the game begins. Clemson struggles in the first half but comes out of the locker room with a sense of urgency. (Roy Philpott)
12:30 p.m. - The bus pulls back up to the hotel and players retire to their rooms. Since this midweek game means that players will miss class, Purnell allots time specifically for studying. Academic Advisor Leslie Moreland has made the trip to Blacksburg and is armed with all of the assignments each player will miss. She meets with each player to make sure they understand what they need to get completed and to assist with questions. Players take several opportunities to study while traveling but this study hall time is especially helpful.
3:00 p.m. - Players meet for their pre-game meal in the dining room. Once again the menu consists of high energy foods. The atmosphere is heavy as players and coaches are now 100 percent focused on the game in a few hours.
5:35 p.m. - The Clemson traveling party arrives back at Cassell Coliseum. They have checked out of the hotel and luggage is in hand. Players go through a routine similar to the shoot around from earlier in the day.
7:07 p.m. - The ball is tipped and the game begins. Clemson struggles in the first half but comes out of the locker room with a sense of urgency. K.C. Rivers has a big second half and leads the Tigers to an 86-82 victory. It's an important game for the program being a road win in the ACC and being a nationally televised event.
9:15 p.m. - Coach Purnell meets with the media for his postgame press conference. After the head coach is finished the media is given access to some of the players themselves who answer a variety of questions from "what was it like meeting Bobby Knight?" to "Do you think this is a Top 10 team?" Purnell comes back courtside to do his 10-minute postgame interview with the Clemson radio broadcast crew.
9:35 p.m. - The team is back on the bus for the forty minute ride back to Roanoke. The support staff passes out pizzas to the players that were ordered to their liking ahead of time. Most players also use this time to call family and friends or to catch up on emails and messages. Sportscenter is on and the players react to the long three pointers by K.C. Rivers that are part of the highlight reel on TV.
10:35 p.m. - The transfer of luggage is complete and the Clemson basketball program is airborne once again for their flight back to Anderson. Most players catch a quick nap before landing in Anderson.
11:25 p.m. - One last bus ride back to campus and this trip is in the books. The team is dropped off at Littlejohn at 11:45, the same place they started their weekday trip just 31 hours earlier. Coaches and players are already putting this game behind them. In a few short hours they will meet to begin the installation of all the wrinkles they have in store for their next opponent, Duke.