KU Women’s Basketball Arrives in the Virgin Islands

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The University of Kansas women’s basketball team arrived in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Tuesday evening in anticipation of the 2013 Ezybonds Global Payments U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, over the Thanksgiving holiday week, at the University of the Virgin Islands.

The tournament, which includes eight teams separated into two divisions, will be a round-robin format spanning Nov. 28-30. Kansas (3-1) is competing in the Island Division featuring Central Michigan (1-2), Xavier (2-2) and No. 2 Duke (5-0). The Jayhawks will play each day at 4:30 Atlantic Standard Time – 2:30 in Lawrence – beginning with the Chippewas on Thanksgiving Day.      

“For all the teams here, it is great quality competition on a neutral floor,” Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Every team is good and you get to play three games in three days and the fact that it is in a beautiful location makes it great.”

After arriving in the Virgin Islands’ capital city, the team rode open-air safari cabs to its hotel where it was greeted with fruit punch and on the observation deck, with the beautiful scenery of the islands in the background. Once all the luggage was accounted for, the team took to a local high school for its first practice of the trip.

On their first full day in paradise, the Jayhawks received an early wake-up call for a catamaran tour on board Heavenly Days to nearby Turtle Cove, off the shore of Buck Island. On the tour, the team was instructed on the art of snorkeling and had a chance to test the waters on its own. Looking down into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, members of the snorkel tour were able to see marine life in the form of sea turtles, tropical fish, coral and stingrays.
“It was my first time snorkeling and I thought it was the most fun thing I have ever done in my whole life,” freshman forward Caelynn Manning-Allen said.

The experience was a new adventure for many members of the team, but it was especially nerve racking for sophomore guard Lamaria Cole, who doesn’t even know how to swim and was initially against the idea of jumping in the ocean, but after some convincing from her coaches and teammates, she decided to give it a shot.

“I do not swim and I was terrified for my life before I even got in the water,” Cole said. “It was cool and it was a good experience. I didn’t get to see a stingray, but I saw some turtles and fish.” 

After the tour, the team had a few hours of free time to take in the sights and sounds of the island and visit the beach before its first practice in the UVI Sports and Fitness Center. When the Jayhawks returned to their hotel they were greeted with a Caribbean-style barbeque, complete with Caribbean style band Pan-N-Motion and the Enchantment Dancers, who provided the night’s entertainment. The barbeque allowed the Jayhawks a chance to dive deeper in the Caribbean culture and relax before the games begin.  

“The food was good and the music was good,” junior forward Bunny Williams said. “I liked it. The best part was seeing coach Bonnie dancing.”

While the basketball portion of the trip certainly holds significance, with the Jayhawks facing one of the nation’s top-ranked teams, but the trip also means a lot in terms of bonding and the cultural experiences of the trip will stay with the members of the team for the rest of their lives.  

“It’s a great way to bond and grow closer together,” Henrickson said. “They will be able to share stories, memories and experiences from this trip. That’s part of the process of growing closer together. (This tournament) provides an unbelievable opportunity for that to happen.”

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