McCray Updates Jayhawk Fans On Her USA Basketball Adventures

June 29, 2009


Kansas senior-to-be All-American Danielle McCray returns to her blog to update Jayhawk fans on her adventures with USA Basketball and being a part of this year’s World University Games Team.

Tuesday, June 21

I’m back! Now that some of the excitement from making the team has settled down a little, I am going to give you the scoop on the things that we have been doing. After we all found out who made the team, we had a practice. It was once again like the other practices that I have mentioned, intense and productive. One thing that was added in the beginning of practice was a new reward that will be given to the best practice player. The look of the reward brought laughter to each individual who was in the huddle before practice. Coach Charli told us this story about how doing the little things is what can bring success. She told us we need to “thaw our chicken.” So now before every practice that is a goal for us. However, when she said this Coach Suzy brought a toy chicken in the huddle that she grabbed out of a toy store in town and Charli stated, “This will be given to the best practice player of the day or great game performer.” So everyday everyone tries to get the chicken. I thought this was hilarious and a great idea. I’m really working hard to get this chicken, so I can say “I thawed my chicken!” With that said, practice has been really interesting especially at the end when she mentions who will gets the chicken.

After practice we all went out to dinner. It was a fun team event away from the facilities. We all had a good time. After dinner we bused to the movie theater down the street. We all had the choice to see different movies, but they had to be around the same time. Some people chose The Hangover, which I had already seen and others chose The Proposal and The Taking of Pelham 123, but you will not guess what I ended up seeing… Well…Tina Charles, Tiffany Hayes and Jantel Lavender, my teammates, decided to be little kids that night and see the kid’s movie called Up. The best thing was that it was being shown in 3-D. We were too excited to get our 3-D glasses! We rushed in the movie to get great seating. Needless to say, this was a great choice and I really enjoyed the movie. One thing that was too cute during the movie was there was a little girl that was crying at a certain part in the movie when her favorite animal I’m guessing, the dog died. As the movie theater was silent she yelled in a sad voice, “Mommy I love the dog why did he have to die?” That was the cutest moment. Overall, the night was really fun. After the movie we went back to our room and crashed and got ready for the next day.

Wednesday, June 22

Waking up, again, was not the easiest thing to do. We had an early practice. After practice we went to the café and lounge until our next practice. Oh yes…I said next practice. Ever since I have been in Colorado Springs for training camp, we have been having two-a-days going from 9 a.m., until about 11:30 a.m., and then again 5:30 p.m., until about 8 p.m. We all have been putting in a lot of work. It’s not easy. Our second practice today was actually fun. We scrimmaged some guys from an AAU team in the Colorado area. They gave us a good fight, but we came out on top. It was fun to play against someone different for once. After practice we did another team event, this time it was at Carol Callan’s house. She is the head of USA Women’s Basketball. We all jumped in buses and drove to her house. On the way it felt like we were driving back to Kansas. It took a while to get there. Her house was high in the mountains, which was very pretty. As we were entering her neighborhood, the manager who was driving us told us we might see some deer. After I heard him say this I didn’t think twice about it because I see deer all the time in Kansas. But as we kept driving, he told us to look to your left, so we all looked and saw four HUGE deer right in someone’s lawn just eating grass like they were a pet dog. I had never seen deer so up close. So we were all amazed. But that was not it. We pulled up into Carol’s drive way and her next door neighbor had another huge deer right on their porch!

We all saw it and thought it was fake, so one of my teammates went over by it to check and come to find out it was real!. This was a sight to see. I have never seen a deer on someone’s porch just chilling. It was literally so close that if Carol’s neighbor would have opened her front door, she would hit the deer with their door in the process. This was crazy!

After we all got over the deer on the porch we went in Carol’s house and ate. Then without notice from the coaches, we were assigned to three teams. We had to do a skit that would take us out of our comfort zone. The activity consisted of four players on each team and you had to remix the Star Spangled Banner in any kind of way and each player had to be involved. We were judged by the coaches 1-10 in different areas. This was the funniest thing ever. The first group rapped the Star Spangled Banner and had their own beat maker. Talk about hilarious! I had tears rolling down my cheeks the whole time they were performing! My group was the second group, and consisted of Tina Charles from UConn, Danielle Robinson from Oklahoma and Kayla Pederson from Stanford. It took us a while to figure out what we were going to do. We finally came up with something funny. We remixed the whole thing and talked about our coaches and being in Colorado. At the end we started dancing to Boom Boom Boom by The Black Eyed Peas. We slightly changed the lyrics by saying, “gotta get that, gotta get that, gotta get that Gold Gold Gold”… As in gotta get that gold medal! We ended up tying in points with the first. Last-but not least-was the group that won, due to the fact that they used actual music. The first two groups were very unique by making there own beats with their mouth or by singing the song. This group decided to plug in their I-pod and turn to Beyonce for help in her song called `I’m A Diva.’ Although they had help from Beyonce they did a good job. They were pretty creative. We all started dancing to their performance; it felt like I was at a concert by the way everyone reacted to their song. They sped up the Star Spangled Banner to match the beat of Beyonce’s song. Even though they beat us by one point, I was still happy with our performance.

This night definitely showed who had talent in areas off the court. Everyone did well. Then we just played music and had a house party and saw who can dance and who couldn’t. And yes of course, I had to represent Kansas and our dancing skills. I thought my `Late Night’ dancing did come in handy when we were having the dance off. This last night in Colorado Springs was really fun for all of us!

Thursday, June 23

The day before we were going to head for Serbia, everyone talked about how long the flight was going to be and how we should all stay up. But after the two practices that day and the way our bodies were feeling everyone changed their minds. I was in bed a little early. It turned out to be a good plan.

I woke up around 8:30 this morning and finished packing and went to the gift shop to find souvenirs. After the gift shop, I ate breakfast and we loaded the bus. We were on the bus for about an hour. We had to bus to Denver from Colorado Springs. It was not that bad. It was like busing from Lawrence to KCI airport. When we pulled up to the airport we got a ton of looks and asked many questions by other travelers. We all have on our USA travel suit which is pretty spiffy! (I love gear if you haven’t noticed.) Anyway, we checked our bags in and headed for our gate. In the security line, I don’t know how many times I was asked do you play volleyball. I guess people in Colorado think that ALL tall people play volleyball. We are scheduled for a lay-over in Chicago and then it’s off to Serbia!

Serbia At Last!

Boy oh Boy!! Feels like I went to all the way to Serbia and back before getting finally here!! It officially took us 30 hours to get to Belgrade, Serbia. The original plan was to take about 13 hours. We had delays and missed our flight in Germany, which caused us to wait in the airport for a extra three hours and then we flew to Italy and then finally Serbia. Although it is fun to get to say I’ve been to Italy, I could have gone without stopping there. When we arrived in Serbia we had to go through customs, which was very strict. Our bus was outside waiting to transport us to the village. We were escorted by police, which reminded me of our police for the Big 12 Tournament. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the village and when we arrived we had to get our bus checked in order to get through to the village. One thing that I can say is that the police and security enforcement is very strict in Belgrade, Serbia! Everywhere we go I see about three or four cops with guns and sticks. When we finally go into our village, which is were all the athletes from different countries live, we registered and checked in to our rooms. It was about 10 p.m., here, so we were hungry. We managed to be lucky enough to make it to the café on time. However, when we got there the food was not normal. This was the first time I ever turned down or refused to try a new food. Normally I’m willing to try foods from different countries, but this didn’t look good to me. From that point on, I knew I would have trouble with the foods in Serbia! The choices were mushroom lasagna and potato pie. There were no meats of any sort. I believe it was just vegetarian night or something! So about five or six of us decided to just eat some junk food we brought with us from the States. After we left the café we all were assigned to rooms in the village. It is pretty nice. We walked in and saw newly built rooms, etc., but No TV!!! We all looked and laughed and wondered how are we going to go three weeks with out a TV?! That was the biggest question. When it was time to shower after 30 longs hours of traveling, another thing we noticed was there were no shower curtains in the bathroom. I guess in the United States we are just spoiled rotten. While I was showering, I heard one of my teammates shout “The water is cold!!” So not only did our apartment have NO TV and NO shower curtain…the water got cold very fast too! The first night was an adaptation process for us. We had to get out of the spoiled mind frame for a bit. After showering and noticing new things, we all hung out in each other’s rooms until it was time to go to bed.

The next day, which was Saturday, we woke up pretty late and decided to grab a bite to eat. This time the food looked pretty normal, but I still was a little unsure about some of the foods. We had a lot of free time to do what we wanted that day, so we enjoyed it. Around 7 p.m., we had practice for about two hours and went back to the village and lounged around.

Today is Sunday and in Belgrade its 11:48 a.m., and in Lawrence it’s 4:48 a.m., so while I’m writing this most of you all are asleep. We just got back from breakfast at the café. There are about four of us in our internet lounge that is located outside of our apartment. We come to this place as much as possible to Skype with our family and chat on facebook and send emails. I never knew how perfect Skype can be at times. For the last two days I have been using my computer to communicate with family and friends. It was one of the best times of my life to talk to my mother on my computer. She was happy when she heard my voice and it almost made me cry. Today we are going on a tour of Belgrade. This experience has already been pretty neat in a lot of ways and I’m looking forward to more to come! I will be sure to keep you posted…Until then Rock Chalk!