LAS VEGAS - The Emory & Henry College Men's Basketball team had the opportunity to compete in the D3hoops.com Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada over the College's Christmas break. In addition to playing a pair of games at the prestigious national showcase, the team was able to visit many historic landmarks in the region including the Hoover Dam. The team's three seniors took a moment to reflect on the experience.
Day 1 According to Alic Wynn (Sr.):
The first day of our team's trip to Las Vegas was filled with lots of traveling and exploring new things. To start off our day, we practiced at The Woodward Academy, a private school near the airport in Atlanta, Georgia. This was an intense practice aimed at helping us shake off the rust from our Christmas break and to set the tone for how we wanted to play in Las Vegas.
After practice, we went back to the hotel to clean up, grab our luggage, and head for the airport. For many of my teammates, this was the first time for them to fly or even just to go through an airport. And now as a senior, it is so funny to think back on how I acted on the plane for the first time our team went to Puerto Rico my sophomore year. When we landed in Las Vegas, we were so excited to see the city lights and experience something new. Little did we know, Coach Willson had already planned a day full of surprises! We were picked up from the hotel by a limo bus that was loaded with a blue-tooth stereo system, video screens, neon lights, and non-alcoholic drinks. As we pumped our music (much to Coach Willson's dismay), we drove to the Las Vegas Strip and saw the Bellagio Fountains before heading to a nice team dinner.
After dinner, the coaches walked us down Las Vegas Blvd. to T-Mobile Arena where they surprised us again by giving us tickets to a Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL hockey game. The arena was sold out! The hockey game was so cool to watch. I had never been to a major league hockey game before and I love all types of sports, so being able to watch the game was definitely a highlight of the trip for me! After the game we were all worn out from a long day and we were ready to get some sleep. We knew another exciting day awaited us in Las Vegas.
Day 2 According to Jarris Hendricks (Sr.):
Just like our first day here in Vegas, we spent time broadening our horizons. We started our day with a scouting report meeting and a challenging practice where we emphasized execution and attention to detail in preparation for our game the next day against Edgewood College. After grabbing lunch, we loaded onto our bus and drove to the Hoover Dam. I know for most of the team, this was the first time that we had ever heard of the Hoover Dam. While we were there, we learned about all of the history of the Colorado River region and how much the dam means to so many different cities and regions in the western part of the country. We also learned that the Hoover Powerplant is the largest hydroelectric facility in the world. I didn't know what to expect when we got there, but in retrospect it was a great opportunity to get outside of Las Vegas and see the beautiful surrounding landscape. It was also eye-opening to observe one of our country's most amazing engineering accomplishments.
After the Hoover Dam, we went to Fremont Street in old downtown Las Vegas. It is similar to the Vegas Strip in terms of having the lights and attractions. The difference is that Fremont St. has more eclectic street performers and entertainment. It was a really cool experience to see people displaying their different talents. After we finished walking around Fremont St., we ate at La Comida, an authentic Mexican restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. We finished the night by going to the South Point Arena to watch the end of one of the D3Hoops.com Classic games between Johns Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin Platteville. The game went into overtime and was an entertaining game between two of the better division III programs in the country. It got us excited about the opportunity to compete on that floor the next day.
RELATED LINKS: Around Town - Las Vegas Sights
Day 3-4 According to Andrew Davis (Sr.):
After seeing some incredible sights and experiencing the Las Vegas culture during our first two days, it was time for us to lock in on why we flew out west in the first place. The D3Hoops.com Classic was showcased in the Southpoint Hotel arena and allowed us to display Emory & Henry basketball on a national platform once again. Heading into our first game against Edgewood, we began to mentally prepare for the task at hand. Through scouting reports, film, and walk-throughs, we assessed our opponent meticulously in order to be prepared in every way for our first game. As Bob Johnson once said, "When our time arrives, it is too late to prepare." As a program we take this statement seriously and headed into the classic with this in mind. As the ball tipped off against Edgewood, we admittedly came out flat in the first half. To our credit, we self-examined ourselves at halftime and came out desperate in the second. We were able to put every man on the floor at some point in the game and each person stepped up in some way, shape, or form bringing us energy, needed 3 pointers, or solid facilitating tactics to push us into a decisive victory against Edgewood.
RELATED LINKS: D3hoops.com Classic Game Photos
In our final game of the Vegas Classic, we faced the #9 team in the nation, Whitworth University out of Washington. This opponent possessed a good amount of size and shooting ability so we knew we would be challenged. Our theme on the court for this trip was, "If it's easy we don't want it" and this game embodied that exactly. Heading into the first half, we struggled to maintain consistency, but stayed well within the game. In the second half it was a back and forth battle to chip away at the Pirate's lead. In the final minutes, strong efforts were made to whittle the lead to five points, but we would not be able to get any closer than that and ended up losing the game by a score of 87-80. Notably, our point guard, Tharon Suggs, made the All-Tournament team and he gave all the credit to his teammates who supported him on and off the court in attaining the award. This game caused us to realize our ability to compete at a high level against high quality teams on a national level. Despite the loss, we finished the Las Vegas Classic encouraged and pumped to head into ODAC play this upcoming New Year. Overall, this trip has pushed us to broaden our horizons by seeing a new part of the United States and by introducing many of us to new, first-time experiences. From witnessing the Hoover Dam and Vegas strip to absorbing the awesome sights and sounds of the Nevada terrain, our time in Las Vegas has proven to be beneficial for us as a team on and off the court. We got better through adversity on the hardwood and are now able to take away an experience none of us will ever forget.
As a team we are immensely grateful for the opportunities afforded us by alumni, donors, and the E&H family. Without you all, these life-changing trips and times would never be possible so we thank you and say a big, "Go Wasps!"