Shawnee State’s basketball team flew out to Sioux City, Iowa Monday, arriving in the early evening with time to settle in and get a night of rest before the full day of events Tuesday.
After a 15-hour road trip with late weather concerns, I arrived with just enough time to make it to the gym for SSU’s 10:30 morning opener.
Tuesday started with a trip to the Tyson Events Center for the annual “Special Olympics Clinic.” At this event, members of the teams that will be competing in the national tournament take some time to dribble, pass and shoot baskets with the youth athletes.
With harsh winter weather covering roads with ice, the turnout was not near as great as it has been in years past, but those kids in attendance were able to enjoy time with the players and meet the mascot Shawn E. Bear.
SSU senior guard Kelly Wagner was interviewed twice for different local TV stations, to talk about the clinic.
Immediately after the team was finished in the main arena, they migrated to an auxiliary gym to have a final practice and walkthrough before the tournament’s tip tomorrow.
The coaching staff watched as a relaxed group turned the shoot-around into a couple games of “knockout” (won by Wagner and Mallory Albers). After the two games, the team went through its pregame routine, ran some out of bounds plays, and did some full and half-court scrimmaging.
To close the practice, the team huddled with a chant of “1…2…3 We Believe.”
SSU assistant coach Todd Perdas believes in the group that he said looks much more relaxed and focused then they were the day before their opening-round contest last year (a 94-82 loss to Minot State). He also commented, once the team was out of hearing distance, that the last half hour of the practice was one of the best stretches the team has had in a long time.
Tonight the team will be off to the “Banquet of Champions,” which is set to honor all 32 teams that will compete in the tournament this week. An early curfew for the team is expected as they prepare for a noon (1 p.m. EST) tip against Florida Memorial in the tournament’s third game.