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TRAVELOG: We made it to St. Thomas

TRAVELOG: We made it to St. Thomas

Patrick Herb (Assistant Director of Athletic Communications)

Patrick Herb’s Paradise Jam Travelog

Wednesday evening, Nov. 19th

The best laid plans… I had intended on writing an update from the Miami airport, just a little status check to say what we were up to. That didn’t quite work out.

Our bus ride and check in was shorter than expected so we had a little time to burn in O’Hare. Travel tip: fly through O’Hare on a Wednesday around noon. I’ve never seen a check-in counter so vacant. Literally 10 attendants just waiting for customers. A 10:1 ratio is common at the airport, but NEVER in the flyer’s favor.

Here’s how a couple of the guys used the spare time in the airport: Marcus and Rob Wilson played UNO with Coach Ryan’s daughters Brenna and Mairin, several guys studied and listened to music, Coach Ryan watched game tape, presumably on Iona or one of our future opponents, Coach Gard worked on the scouting report and just about everyone hit up McDonald’s or something similar. Everybody is decked out head to toe in red Wisconsin travel suits and the guys lined up at McD’s looked like a pack of Twizzlers standing on end. We draw attention.

We boarded our flight in Chicago on time but sat on the plane for more than an hour before taking off. Scratch what I said about flying through O’Hare on a Wednesday at noon. Updated travel tip: avoid O’Hare whenever possible. It sure seems like flying through that airport without a delay is about as common as J-Bo missing a free throw (he had 39 in a row last year by the way).

The hour delay caused us to be late for our connecting flight to the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas isn’t the type of place with dozens of late night flights going in and out, so missing this connection was not an option. The team’s director of basketball operations, Joe Robinson, must have pulled an O.J. Simpson (can I reference him or is he completely taboo these days?), running through the airport to our new terminal.

We all get a text message saying that they’re holding the plane for us but we have to hurry. Nice work Joe. Right about the time I’m starting to wonder what we’ll all be wearing tomorrow since we will make the flight but our bags certainly wouldn’t, Joe says the bags are being loaded as we speak. Apparently when he asked what it would take to get our bags hurried onto the connecting flight the lady at the counter told him the gentleman before him “already taken care of it.” I have no confirmation on what it took to “take care of it” or who this mystery gentleman is, but rumor is he may know his way around a golf course and go by the initials A.N.

The joys of travel.

Anyway… both Miami and San Diego’s bball teams were on our flight to St. Thomas which was interesting. Everyone was civil, but there may have been a little posturing. Miami’s SID and I had a staring contest as I walked down the aisle. (Wisconsin wins again) We made it to St. Thomas around 11:00 p.m. (Atlantic time – two hours ahead of Madison). It’s already dark here so I can’t give you the visual impressions yet. Gives me something for tomorrow I guess. Good night from the islands.


Wednesday morning, Nov. 19th

As of 9:42 this morning we are officially on our way to paradise! Two Badger Coaches rolled out of the Kohl Center carrying the 22nd-ranked Wisconsin men’s basketball team and a couple dozen staff and family for a week-long foray to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A mere 12 hours after the Badgers mopped up SIU-Edwardsville, 88-58, the boys were kissing the Wisconsin winter goodbye on their way to the Paradise Jam Tournament. If the guys were anything like me they waited until approximately midnight last night to even start thinking about packing. But honestly, it’s going to be mid-80s all week. What do you really need to pack other than a couple pairs of shorts, flip flops and some UW t-shirts? Plus, who are we kidding as excited as everyone was last night, there probably wasn’t a lot of sleep happening anyway.

We’re bussing to O’Hare airport in Chicago now and then flying from ORD to Miami. From there, we’ll transfer planes for another flight to St. Thomas. Long day of travel, especially when you consider we lose two hours en route. I’m sure you all feel really bad for us right now don’t you?

The early highlight of the trip for the student-athletes has to be the per diem. Even just a couple bucks in your pocket will make everybody smile.

Marcus Landry says he can’t wait to put eight years of swimming lessons to good use down in the pools and the ocean. He’ll have a great excuse to do some “hydro-therapy” on that ankle he rolled a few days ago in practice. If you’re just hearing about his ankle for the first time… fear not, he’s played like a stud in both of the first two games this year. If he plays that well on a sore joint, think what he can do when he’s full strength.

For Marcus, Morris Cain, Kevin Gullikson and Joe Krabbenhoft, this is their second trip to the Virgin Islands with Wisconsin. During their freshmen year (fall of 2005) the Badgers won the Paradise Jam Tournament. That year UW beat Norfolk State, Eastern Kentucky and Old Dominion en route to the title. This year’s field should be… how do I say this… a little more competitive.

The 2008 field will have three nationally-ranked teams (including Bucky) and four teams that made the 2008 NCAA tournament. Wisconsin opens with Iona and then faces either San Diego or Valparaiso in its next game. UConn, LaSalle, Miami (Fla.) and Southern Mississippi make up the other bracket. There is no TV for the first round games, so you’ll need the Badger Radio Network and UWBadgers.com to get your fix. Technology permitting I’ll be blogging courtside during games and poolside during down time. More info on how to follow Friday’s game to come.

On an unfortunate note, we are only allowed to travel 15 guys on the road, so two players had to stay behind. Walk-on sophomores Brett Valentyn and Wquinton Smith were the odd-men out this time, but Coach Ryan assured Brett the other day that he’d definitely be able to go to Maui next year. That’s not a bad consolation prize. Plus, this way Brett gets to watch his alma mater Verona High School play in the football state championship at Camp Randall this weekend. Coincidentally, the head manager for the UW men’s hoops team, Luke Wainwright, is the offensive coordinator at Verona. Tough spot for him… call plays in the state championship or take a six-day trip to a tropical island with the bball team.

He’s on the bus with the rest of us heading for paradise.

Stay tuned to UWBadgers.com over the next six days as I’ll keep checking in from stories from the road. What happens in the Virgin Islands does not stay in the Virgin Islands. Take me down to the paradise city…

Appears in Men's Basketball Blog

Tagged with Paradise Jam 2008, Men's Basketball Blog, Men's Basketball Blog

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