May 28, 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006 7:30 AM: Somewhere between LA and Taipei
I'm not sure I have completely soaked it all in yet.
We are on a flight to Taiwan: eleven members of the 05-06 squad, three coaches, and a trainer, flying halfway across the world on an all-expense paid trip. Earlier this year, we were invited by Taiwan's Kainan University to represent the US in an eight-team international tournament in Taipei. While this is an unbelievable opportunity for our entire team, this trip is almost surreal for me, as Taiwan is also the place where I spent six years as a student, and also where ninety percent of my extended family still lives.
We've had a couple weeks to prepare for this trip, so everyone's really excited to get the show on the road. For me, I cant wait to see most of my relatives when they come out to our games next week. On top of that, I also feel great about basketball right now - the 10 practices that the NCAA's gave us to prepare for the tournament have been extremely beneficial to me. I got a lot of good opportunities to work on some areas of my game but also a lot of chances to play in the scrimmages and show a little bit of what I can do on the floor. I think I've been playing pretty well, and I can start to feel a lot of things finally coming together for me. So to be able to have a chance to carry that over to my native country is just an unbelievable feeling to me.
On our flight to LA, the crew members announced that the MIT basketball team was onboard and on the way to Taiwan for a tournament, which resulted in a warm applause, as well as some encouraging words mixed in with a fair share of math and science jokes. One thing about having a 21-9 season is being able to dispel the jokes immediately. Usually people will come at you with some kind of joke that involves the number pi or protractors, then they will proceed to ask you how many games you won. Unfortunately, when the answer is 10, as was the case last season, said person will just follow the first joke with an even more outrageous comment, most likely about lab rats or rockets. Its certainly been a lost easier to get respect this season with a winning record.
If you've never been on a China Airlines 747, I highly recommend it. Our particular aircraft flying to Taipei for instance was probably a benefactor of Xibits' Pimp My Rideshow. Every single seat on the plane had an LCD screen and an incredible entertainment system. The selection included newly released movies like Glory Road and King Kong, classic TV shows like Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond, not to mention over ten different video games and live camera feeds from the captain's cabin. At any point of the ride, you can actually check the view below and in front of the plane, as well as live stats and an interactive map tracking the journey - all at the tip of your fingers. Me and Barnett spent about 20 minutes looking for the price to access these amenities before discovering that everything was free. Asian airlines really set the bar for quality flying.
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27, 2006
We all met in front of the MITs Z-Center for a 5:45 AM take off. Most of the players, and coaches for that matter, hadn't slept at all the previous night. The players got on an MIT shuttle and, since the coaches took a cab, the players were able to get in a few laughs at the coaches expense.
We arrived at the airport, checked in our bags, and headed to our gate with no problems or delays. On our flight to LA, about half of the players enjoyed the luxury of an exit row. As usual, Dou was consumed in his i-pod while Brandon and Mike got rather enthusiastic that the airplane was playing the show 24on the television.
On our way to check in to China Airlines, Juneau, a native of Crenshaw, gave a brief overview of LA. During our 2 hour wait in the terminal, most of the team went to grab lunch at a hot dog stand a few gates down. I was happy to take the opportunity to pick out a nice spot on the floor to catch a nap.
The plane ride was long! Krull said he had to force himself to get up a few times every hour because he was so uncomfortable. One of the most amusing sights was Gary's 6'9" frame trying to squeeze into the seat for the 15 hour flight. Luckily, each player had their own personal television with a selection of numerous movies, cd's, video games, and television shows. We were met by a representative from Kainan University and a huge tour bus. Everyone started taking loads of pictures as spirits began to rise. When we arrived at the hotel, I felt like I was music star. The representative had ordered 8 medium pizzas for our team. We killed the pizza and then everyone headed to bed with their roommates.