More than just "away," Mavs start season with legendary road trip
Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 17:12
Eight times in a row the men’s basketball team has played an away game in their early season schedule. The Mavs began their current trip on Nov. 14 and don’t finish until a game at Denver on Dec. 15.
UNO doesn’t get another home game until Dec 18 against Benedictine College.
“It’s been kind of hard for us, being away from our own gym,” sophomore guard CJ Carter said. “We’re trying to fight through it, coming together as a team but it’s been hard.”
The Mavs have faced various teams from all around the country including a game south in New Orleans at Tulane then one north against the Badgers in Madison, Wisconsin. Being new to Division I brings with it tougher opponents at more distant locations for the program.
“I knew it was going to be difficult, I didn’t know it would be this difficult,” junior Justin Simmons said. “When I was younger I would see teams get blown out and I’d think I’d never heard of this school before, and as of now it’s the same thing for us. We’re new, a lot of people don’t know who we are. I can see the resemblance, it’s tough.”
Not only has the road stint been challenging on the court, but off the hardwood the Mavs still must manage their academic duties.
“It’s been real hard because we’ve been away for 10 days,” Carter said. School work is hard as well, trying to get our notes on the road. You just want to worry about basketball but you got to do both.”
Although student-athletes are given leeway on their studies from teachers, that doesn’t always lessen the stress. As student-athletes, the team must find a balance.
“After the SDSU (South Dakota State) game the first thing I thought of when the buzzer went off was ‘I got to finish my paper,’” Simmons said. “When it’s basketball it’s basketball, but when it’s over I know what I got to do.”
Being away from home affects the way practices work as well, adding to the list of road challenges.
“A lot of time the practice focus is on things you want to take away and attack something they may be deficient in or take away some of their strengths,” Head Coach Derrin Hansen said. “Those are some things you hone in on a little more on the road, but usually you only do that once a week. We’ve been doing that a lot over the last 10 to 12 days so it’s been exaggerated for us a little bit.”
By being the guests for a game, UNO is limited as to what they can accomplish in practice.
“It’s much harder because we only have so long in an opponent’s gym,” Simmons said. “We only have about an hour and 15 minutes. We really don’t have time for our selves. Today, (Dec. 7) was probably our first full practice in a while.”
With that said though, being together on the road as a team means more time together to form bonds.
“You have to spend a lot of time together and do a lot of things together so I’d like to think that helps,” Hansen said. “That’s all part of it. You want to be around guys that you like and respect and work hard for and all those things so I think that traveling helps with team mentality.”
Along with coaching the x’s and o’s of the game, Coach Hansen also carries the responsibility of managing the mental grind of road trips such as these.
“We try to give them as much down time as we can but then you’re not practicing as much or helping yourself either,” Hansen said. “We’re trying to give them some itineraries ahead to look at it to relax to see when they can study. At the same time you want the travel to be as easy as possible. We’re just taking it game by game. You hope you get from the plane to the bus to the hotel and its all easy sailing.”
Off the court, the Mavs have had some new experiences, including riding on Texas Tech’s private jet and visiting Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
“I enjoy traveling, seeing new places and things is a big thing,” Carter said.
Part of the road life involves sleep and food away from the comfort of home, the Mavs seem to have adjusted well to that aspect of it.
“The hotels are great,” Simmons said. At SDSU we had sleep number beds and we got to stay there for two nights, which was pretty nice. It saves us a lot on food because we don’t have to pay for it as well.”
Facing a road trip this long comes with its difficulties. The goal is that it can benefit the team later on in the year.
“That’s the hope we’ve been telling them now for three weeks, for a month, is to get through this grind, physically and mentally in good shape and it’ll help us down the road,” Hansen said. The Mavs have one more road game before playing at home. But in between Sunday’s game at Iowa State and the game at Denver the team has a five-day break.
“We’re going to have three to four practices at home next week during finals week and I know we’re looking forward to that,” Hansen said.
With the grind of this early 10-game road trip winding down, the Mavs hope they can learn from it and build off it for later games in the season.
“It’s just been the little stuff,” Carter said. “It’s not like you can just put your head down and say it’s over, it’s only been 10 games. Anything can happen and anything can turn around at anytime so you got to stay positive. We’ve been away for so long. It’ll be fun to get back there (the Ralston Sports Arena) December 18.