Paradise Jam Travelog
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Thursday afternoon, Nov. 20th
The Paradise Jam tournament committee hosted all of the teams (separately – they didn’t want an Anchorman-style fight to break out… all of the tridents were put away) at the top of the giant hill on the island for a dinner and welcome reception. The ride up and down was one of the neatest parts as we took about a seven-minute gondola ride up the side of the hill. Kelly Ryan might disagree on how neat the ride was since she’s not a big fan of heights, but I’m sure she was able to appreciate the beautiful views from up there.
At the top of the hill they had a 10-minute bird show for us, complete with talking macaws and a bird that rode a bicycle. You may have seen this act on one of the late-night shows (Letterman, Leno, Conan, etc.), but the bird-trainer had a bird pedaling a bicycle on a high wire. Pretty impressive. She also had two birds play one-on-one basketball against each other with a ping pong ball and mini hoops. She knew her audience.
Wisconsin’s time slot was from 5 until 6 pm, which was prefect because we got to watch the sunset over the harbor. I think collectively our group took about 1,417,893 photos.
Back to the hotel where the guys got dressed and taped for practice. Each team was given a time slot to practice at University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center, where our games are being held. We were given the 8:30 p.m. time since that’s when we will playing our games. Works out great for the sun-lovers in the group.
Many of you may remember the gym from the last time Wisconsin played in the Virgin Islands, and not much has changed (I’m told). With that said, it’s pretty unlike any other gym we’ll play in this season. I keep using the word gym, because that’s really what it is. It would be ridiculous to call it an arena since it more closely resembles a high school venue than a Big Ten facility.
The first thing Coach Ryan did with the team after the guys stretched and warmed-up was to take Tim Jarmusz and Jon Leuer under the basket and cover their eyes (that must have felt great on the fresh sunburn splattered all over Tim’s face). He then asked them a series of questions about the space they were playing in to see how observant they were while warming up. Coach asked them things like: where are the clocks and scoreboard? How much room is there under the basket and on the sidelines? Is there room to kneel at the scorer’s table when checking in? Interesting exercise. He did not however have JP hoist Jordan Taylor on his shoulders to measure the height of the rim.
Here are my impressions of the gym (I cheated though and looked around). There are 10 rows of wooden bleachers behind each basket and 13 on the two sides. Carved out of the side sections right at mid-court are 136 chairs, but other than that it’s all wooden rows of seats. Not sure what the capacity of the gym is, but I’d guess somewhere around 2,500. The scoreboards and game clock are on the walls behind each basket, like a high school gym. There is no game clock on the shot clock. There are three 3-point lines painted on the wood floor. There is a women’s 3-point line (19’ 9”), an international line (20’ 6”) and then the furthest one is the new men’s college line (20’ 9”). Very confusing. As Scott Hettenbach said, “No wonder we can’t have world peace, we can’t even agree on a 3-point line.”
Practice lasted about an hour and half and Kevin Gullikson gets practice MVP honors. Playing on the Iona scout team, he was unconscious from all over the floor. Kevin played in one of the games in 2005 when the team was down here, so maybe he’s got a comfort level in this gym. Let’s hope that continues all weekend.
Games start tomorrow… talk to you then!
EAT, STUDY, BEACH, REPEAT
Thursday morning, Nov. 20th
Wake up call was around 9:15 this morning, but really the only thing on the schedule before tonight is eating. We had breakfast at 9:30 and lunch at 1 p.m., but the rest of the time was for relaxing in the sun. Since our first two games are at 8:30 p.m., we’ve been given the late practice time. So we don’t even hit the floor tonight until 8:30. That leaves plenty of time to explore and enjoy the beauty of St. Thomas.
With that said, the first stop on the player’s agenda was study table. Anyone who follows Wisconsin athletics knows that academics are every bit as important for our students as athletics are and education isn’t taken lightly. Given that the guys have to miss several days of class for this trip, we are traveling with academic advising staff and the itinerary has built in study sessions daily. So right after breakfast this morning the players scattered around the ballroom and worked on papers, assignments and caught up on reading.
As soon as the school bell rang it was a mad dash to the beach. I’ve got to admit it’s a pretty funny site watching 15 giant men run into the ocean like little kids. A game of chicken fight broke out as J.P. Gavinski hoisted Kevin Gullikson on his shoulders and Jared Berggren and Ian Markolf took turns with Jason Bohannon on theirs. It’s definitely up for debate who was declared the winner. Something tells me there will be several rematches.
Freshmen Rob Wilson and Jared got their first taste of salt water today. Neither one had ever been in the ocean before and the results were mixed. Jared took to it like… well, a fish to water, but Rob… not so much. Rob doesn’t really know how to swim and was pretty hesitant. Of course it didn’t help that his teammates were chasing him and trying to drown him. You learn to swim really quickly when your life flashes before your eyes.
Coach Ryan didn’t waste much time finding the ocean either. A true lover of salt water, he was looking for some waves to body surf. Not too many waves on the beach here at the hotel though, just crystal-clear blue water. The water is so clear that from the hotel balconies you can see the ocean floor perfectly. “Not quite like Lake Mendota” Coach Ryan likes to say.
Here is what the rest of the day is scheduled to look like:
At 5 p.m. today we’ll be taking a Gondola ride up to the top of the hill on St. Thomas for a welcome dinner and reception. The views are supposed to be breath-taking from up there. I’ll try to get a few photos.
After the reception we head back to the hotel to get changed and taped up for practice. Then it’s an open-air shuttle bus ride to the University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center for a two-hour practice. That is the gym where our games will be held, so it will be a good opportunity for the guys to check out the shooting site lines and get a feel for the arena. Then back to the hotel for a snack and some shut-eye.
Gotta run… beach is calling.