Women's Basketball Bahamas blog
From the Junkanoo Jam
A lot of firsts for me this Thanksgiving holiday
I am writing from Miami on Sunday morning. This was my first road trip and I have to admit, I was kinda scared and nervous in the beginning. I've had some bad experiences with basketball traveling in the past. I hate flying and really don't like being at hotels. I am not the traveling type of girl! I like being in our gym, at home, or in my dorm room. But once I got here and we started having practice, and we got to go on the beach, try snorkeling for the first time (for me) and hang out a little with each other, I really enjoyed my first traveling experience.
The reason it was so positive is because of the people here in our program. This trip, we really became a team. I've always loved my coaches and they are fun to be around, on and off the court. It was after our first win (over South Carolina) when it was a really close game and we found ourselves pulling together to win - that's when I felt the connections. Everybody had energy, if they were on the bench or on the court, it didn't matter. We all came through. I know that my main thought all week was, `there is no way we are traveling thousands of miles and not winning'.
Personally, I was really excited to play and I had a lot of fun. I tried to do whatever my coaches wanted me to do. It's not what one person did that's important - it's that, for the first time, I felt like we jelled. That was the best part of the trip for me. Everyone stepped up. At certain times we all had our moment. It doesn't really matter to me about being on the All-Tournament Team. I guess it's nice, but I want everyone reading this to know that EVERYONE on the team contributed to our wins. That was a great feeling!
The only setback on the trip for me concerned a new hat that I bought specifically for this trip. It WAS a really cute white hat with a black band with white polka-dots. I bought it at the mall the day before we left on the trip. I was really excited to wear it. But then ... In the plane and in the airports, everyone put their nasty heads in it, changed its shape to fit their heads, and dropped it all over.
That poor hat went through the toughest time ever. I just could not wear it. It was crushed and beat up when we got to the Bahamas. So, I left it in the corner of my hotel room because I was upset with looking at it... Destroyed.
The lesson I learned? Hide the next hat from my teammates and don't tell them how much I really like it.
Oh, and I made one big mistake - another first. I left my hair dryer diffuser in my dorm. That was tragic! I realized it on the plane leaving Austin. That diffuser is like my security blanket, and I don't think people realize how much I rely on it. Therefore, I had to wear my hair pulled back in a little baby bun in the back, instead of putting it on top of my head. I was not comfortable at first with that, and then honestly, I got comfortable with it as the first game went on. I think I'll switch off now between wearing my hair up and wearing it pulled back. I am getting sick of doing my hair and changing it up!
But, I have plenty of trip highlights. Snorkeling... I was so scared to do it, because, if I saw a goldfish in a little pond, I probably would faint. I am scared of fish. I only tried snorkeling because two of the other freshmen, Crystal (Boyd) and Abry (Cook) pressured me. Aubry was scared too, so we decided to do it together. Acutally, it was pretty easy and fun, and I saw some beautiful fish from far away!
I want to thank my roommate on this trip - Coco Reed. Coach Conradt put a freshman with an upperclassman on this trip. Coco is real cool, and we had a perfect record of not messing up at all as far as being an upperclassman and freshman room. We were on time for all the meals and meetings, and I knew to wear the right things and knew what do to at meals with Coach's policies.
Well, it's already been an extremely long day. I just finished with my study hall and I am caught up with all my reading. I just finished "The Giver", by Lois Lowry, for my children's literature class. The freshmen are not finished with study hall for the day, because we have mandatory Sunday night study hall for two hours tonight.
After that, I am taking a shower and will knock out.
I haven't yet thought about this week and what faces us. It will really stress me out dwelling on it right now. First, I need to get back in school and get going in my classes after being gone since Tuesday. Once we get into practice, we will start to settle in to what we need to do to play Tennessee.
That's all! I loved my first Texas Basketball trip!
Coming home with two wins and the tournament title: What that means for our team
We apologize for not being able to write until now - on the way back from Freeport, but we had our days full on Friday and Saturday preparing for our two games.
We had a really good time with two really good results in the Bahamas. Off the court, we were out on the beach and relaxing when we could, but the most important thing is what we took away from this tournament. We actually are on a three-game win streak and are happy with that. We are beginning to play like a TEAM, and that's the biggest thing right now. We are coming together, and we found the way to win in back-to-back games against South Carolina and George Washington.
Yes, they were ugly wins and we didn't shoot well, but we stuck together. Earlier this year, we were playing as individuals with everyone, especially the freshmen, on their own page, trying to do what worked for them in high school. But now, it is so good to see us coming together and really talking on the court.
I had a good time watching and advising the seven freshmen on their very first road trip as Longhorns. They have a lot of energy and were running around with intensity in the two games.
Right now, we are sitting in the Miami airport with three hours before we fly to Dallas. We all got something to eat and now we are going to have a two-hour study hall. Our bodies are feeling it right now- the two games in a row and this morning's 4:30 a.m wake-up call. That was really awful!
Before I open my computer, I am having a fun time teasing "Big Ash", our freshman post Ashley Lindsey. Ashley is carrying the trophy all the way from the Bahamas to Austin. It is her responsibility, and it is really heavy with pointed shells on it. When I first saw her with the trophy, I thought she was just excited about the games and our wins, but then I found out that she messed up and that her "punishment" was lugging the trophy all the way back. Ashley made the mistake of leaving her scouting report (on George Washington) in the gym after shootaround Saturday, and Coach (Karen) Aston saw it and had to get it for her. That's a big no-no, of course, because that is our study guide on our opponent. So, Coach Aston wanted to let Ashley have a reminder of not doing that again - and that's why she has to carry the trophy all the way. It is not very comfortable for her to have it with her. We all think it's funny, because the trophy is awkward to handle. I think she gets the message! Don't worry, Ash, we've all been there and had to do something to make up for a mistake, like carry extra luggage, run sprints, do a track workout, go to 6 a.m. conditioning...
Anyway, these two wins were a good confidence booster to help get us in the right mind to play the number one and number two teams in the country this week. Tennessee and Duke are much better teams than those we just played. This means we have to play even harder and get serious for all 40 minutes in the games.
Before that, I am ready to get back home and get some rest and eat dinner. I miss the food back home, but I really loved the beach in the Bahamas!
We know you'll be watching or listening to our game at Tennessee on Thursday. And, we all know you'll be there at the Erwin Center to support us on Sunday against Duke.
Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day:
Hi everyone! I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving... Happy (and hopefully warm) holiday where ever you are (like us!) ...
Today was a really special day for me because I was able to spend this holiday - my favorite American holiday - with people I love and care about. It is also my 22nd birthday, and to celebrate it in the way I did was unique. I got to go on a boat trip, go snorkeling and see beautiful views and beautiful fish.
On the chartered trip today, which the tournament people arranged for all the teams, we were on the boat with the Purdue team. I was an observer and able to have fun and relaxation, forgetting about basketball responsibilities for a few hours. It was a peaceful fun afternoon with no mental stresses before our basketball game tomorrow. It also was another chance for everyone on our team to connect and see a different aspect of each other.
For instance- you know Tamra and Tiffany are really out-going and are going to be upbeat and dancing, but until this afternoon I have never seen Carla (Cortijo) full of smiles and jokes - usually, she is quiet, shy and really serious about basketball. Then, we all laughed when Aubry (Cook) and Crystal (Boyd) starting screaming in the water with their snorkeling gear on - because the sea gulls all came at once to circle around the group because we had fish food! But, even in the water, Big K (Kalee Carey, pictured above right) was being Big K. She is obsessed with the color pink, and has a pink purse and pink boots. So, when we went to get the goggles, the lifeguard was holding about five pair - and only one pair was pink. And I was standing in back of Kalee and thought, Big K is the ONLY person who is going to care about the color of these googles. Sure enough, she stepped up and asked specifically for the pink ones! I know we have pictures of her in those goggles! She always has to try and look cute, even with ugly goggles in the ocean!
I also was surprised to see some people who had made a big fuss about their hair - Tiffany (Jackson), Katrina (Robinson) and Aubry, for instance - came to the boat in their cute resort outfits, then jump right in to snorkel, which Aubry and Trina did, or go down the water slide, like Tiffany and Trina did! They had a lot of fun. Coach Travis (Mays) brought his wife (Mirella) and daughter (Cherrelle) on the trip, and they had a lot of fun with us, too.
Personally, I had a lot of fun. Being from Poland, I had never been to the Bahamas before and never snorkeled. Kalee has snorkeled before and was my guardian in the water. She let me know what to do and made sure I was comfortable. Then when I did, my eyes entered the sea world ... It was beautiful and very peaceful.
I also want to thank Coach Karen (associate head coach Karen Aston) for being thoughtful on my birthday. When we were walking back to the hotel after the trip, we were talking about coffee - Karen loves coffee! - and I mentioned it would be a great treat to have a Starbucks fancy latte sometime soon. And, while I was taking a shower, I got a knock on the door and when I opened it, there was a hazelnut latte waiting for me! I knew it was Karen behind getting this and that she was thinking of me on my birthday. It is good to know that Karen is the type of person who would not just do it on your birthday - she likes taking care of you all the time. It was really really nice.
We had a team Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel. Coach Conradt had us go around the room and have everyone say what they were thankful for. Like I said before, I just in general love the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA. Sometimes we are really really busy and don't stop and say what we are thankful for or what we appreciate. Thanksgiving is the one day you can really pause and think about what you are thankful for and it's a day you can spend time with your family.
Another aspect of Thanksgiving is the great food - I just love food! Before I came to the USA to play junior college basketball in Illinois, and now here at Texas, I had never had some of this Thanksgiving Day traditional food. I want to get some recipes to take back to Poland with me and bring this tradition back to Poland. I love cranberry sauce! I would take sweet potatoes and stuffing recipies to allow my family to try it. Big K is going to her her grandma's stuffing - I guess you call it dressing in Texas!.
Now we are in our rooms, just relaxing and basically waiting for a team meeting and film session to discuss our game strategy. Then we need to go to sleep to get ready for tomorrow's game.
The team attitude is good, everyone is relaxed and coming off a great day. Now, it's time to think about the games and get serious. We came on this trip with a purposee - not to have fun and be regular tourists, but to come win this tourney. Everyone is serious and is getting ready for the game.
Thanks for reading this!
Our first day here
What's up, everyone?
This Junkanoo Jam Tournament we are in is very serious. We play South Carolina on Friday, and then either Purdue, who is ranked like us, or George Washington the next day - hopefully in the championship game! We've got to bring more energy and intensity to the court. We just came back from practice and had a late lunch. Practice was at the St. Georges High School, site of the tournament. We tried to polish up some offenses today in practice. We were glad to get on the court and have an intense workout. There was good energy and concentration and focus and understanding the plays and what Coach Conradt wanted.
We have a film session on South Carolina at 10 o'clock tonight. Today in practice, Coach Aston, who works with us posts, kept reminding us they have a bunch of 6-2, 6-3 and 6-4 players and she emphasized rebounding and blocking out as always.
If anyone is wondering what Junkanoo is - it's the Bahamian festival that runs after Christmas to New Year's - sort of like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, with big theme parades, dancing and music. That's where the tournament name comes from.
On our bus trip from the airport last night, the bus driver (he said his name was Chubby Checkers!) told us that the Bahamas normal population without tourists is around 55,000 people - which is about the size of our UT enrollment! That was amazing to hear. Tourism is their main business and everyone has been really nice and helpful.
This is my first trip outside the United States, and that is exciting for me. It's been fun traveling with my teammates and coaches. My teammates are really a blast and keep me laughing. They are all silly and everyone teases and cracks jokes on each other.
I really like the blue water here. We all have great rooms with balconies which face out to the pool and ocean. I can see all the cruise ships from the hotel, and it makes me think about going on a cruise some day. The view makes you just want to sit back and relax and meditate and be to yourself - and think about getting ready to play. It's actually surprisingly kinda cool here - we all thought it would be more hot and sunny than it was today. I heard it's 80 degrees in Austin today - and I don't think it was 80 here with the breezes we had !
For this trip, Coach roomed each freshman with an upperclassman, so they (upperclassmen) can show us the ropes and help us out with the routines. Nina (Norman) is my roommate and she's a perfect roommate for my first college road trip. I admire her a lot. She has also of insight and I've connected with her since early this summer when we came on campus. Nina is always really helpful and really cool to be around, and always has advice for me about personal things and basketball.
Now, I am to going to my room for a two-hour study hall. Then, we get to do whatever - go shopping or chill out, until our film session at 10. Then, it's light's out and we start the routine again tomorrow, getting ready to play and have some fun on the side.
Before I go, I want to give a shout-out to my mom (Kammie Holmes) and to our good family friends, the Oestrich family, in Pflugerville, Texas, right outside Austin ... and to my friends at UT ... and to all my people in Oklahoma who are checking in at TexasSports.com ... And I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!
Getting to the Bahamas
Finally, after lots of layovers and delays on the runways due to the Thanksgiving airline traffic, we arrived at Freeport last night. We packed our bus in Austin at 11 a.m., went to the Austin airport, flew to Dallas, ran to the train to change terminals, jumped on our plane to Miami, and then grabbed dinner on the way to our gate and left for the Bahamas - getting to our hotel around 10 p.m. (it's East Coast time here).
I am writing this on the bus as we go to our first practice. Everyone is upbeat and ready to go. We've got a young team and everyone is excited to be here, but we also know that this is a business trip and that we are here to win.
This morning, we had a chance to explore the beautiful hotel and the beaches before we went to a team breakfast and to practice. It is so beautiful and sunny here - but breezy! Our resort hotel (the Westin at Our Lucaya) is right on ocean with the pool beach-side.
Most important to our team, there are lots of places to shop across the street! My teammates haven't gotten to go shopping yet - with this group, we would have all shopped late last night if we could have, but the stores were closed when we arrived.
Here's what's gone on with us so far. You might see some photos of us in the water, but most of us will NOT get our hair wet because we just got our hair done for the trip. Here are some of our hair styles: I got a "wet and wavy weave", which, I am afraid, will be wet and NAPPY before the trip is over! Tiff (Tiffany Jackson) got wet and wavy braids, while Aubry (Aubry Cook) got corn rows and Trina (Katrina Robinson) got a sew-in weave. This makes me think... Maybe in one of the upcoming "1-on-One" videos we can do a hair segment, because hair defines lot of us off the court.
Some of you might remember our a cappella singing group from last year - the "Mighty Clouds of Zion". We even got TV time on ESPN before our game at Connecticut last Martin Luther King Day! Well, last night on the bus ride to the hotel, the "Mighty Clouds" tried to rehearse. Disaster! Maybe it was from the plane rides or jet lag, but we sounded horrible. So, just like practicing on the court, we have to practice our singing.
We are about to show the world our new R&B group - we are calling ourselves AWV - for "Athletes with Voices". We actually took the name as a spin-off from an older female R&B group - SWV - which had a big hit in the 1990's called "I Get So Weak". AWV sang that song last night.
In AWV are the three former Mighty Clouds who did not graduate - Tiff, E-Bay (Erneisha Bailey) and myself. The new members (who are actually trying out but they don't know it and think they are in the group already) are Aubry, Ashley (Lindsey), Earnesia (Williams), Crystal (Boyd) and Trina. Crystal has the best voice of the newcomers, but if you see her, don't tell her because it will go to her head!
What else? We have all had fun teasing Erika (Arriaran) about this new hat she brought for the trip - and carried it on the plane with her so it wouldn't get crushed. She bought it at the mall before we left -- it WAS cute (notice the past tense) - a white hat with a black band with white polka dots on it. I was styling in it - and so was everyone else! Everyone wore it and passed it around - and well, it kind of get messed up, crushed, dropped in the airport and worn out in one day! Now, Erika is mad at us! She refuses to wear it and says it looks like it traveled 2000 miles on 2000 heads and is too worn-out already! She says if she finds a cute hat here in Freeport, she'll buy it and not tell anyone!
We were laughing about it on the bus this morning, and suddenly Mari (Mariana Mergerson) had what she called a "lightbulb moment". In her children's literature class this semester, they talked about "Flat Stanley" - the educational project where Flat Stanley (a story by Jeff Brown) is squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. One of the many advantages is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by traveling in an envelope. This premise provides a reason for us to keep in touch with each other and it helps kids learn to write.
So, now, Erika's hat is going to become the Texas Basketball's Flat Stanley - it is our "Flat Hat Stanley" for this trip! Mari already has ideas on where to shoot photos of Flat Hat Stanley - palm trees? Deck chair? Basketball court? We'll all find out soon!
Speaking of Mari, since she is still not cleared to play, she will be taking photos with her digital camera for us along with Coach T-Mays (Travis Mays). I think Mari will do a great job for our Bahamas postcard blog, because she has such a good eye for fashion and will really be able to deliver for us and catch us at our best!
E-Bay (Erneisha Bailey) is in charge of the video. She is doing this as a video class project as well. She will film the next segment of "1-on-One" with me and special guests ocean-side. We've got the Kansas City connection here - we could start our own production company- the KC Connection! Well, I know I have a lot of ideas, but like I said before, right now it's time to get straight down to business... and have a little fun on the side.
Check back with us later as another of my teammates will write later today. Thanks for reading this!
Everyone have a great Thanksgiving!