By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. – During the last several years, the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team has traveled across the country to many remote, small town locations.
The list includes Lawrenceville, NJ (Rider College), Cheney, Wa. (Eastern Washington), East Lafayette, Ind. (Purdue), Bowling Green, Ky. (Western Kentucky), Moscow, Id. (Idaho), Billings, Mt. (Montana), Carbondale, Il (Southern Illinois) and Normal, Il (Illinois State).
The latest travel destination was Cedar City, Utah where Cal State Northridge played Southern Utah University on Feb. 23.
Traveling to Cedar City was no easy task. It's almost a one day journey that required the Matadors to leave the CSUN campus early on Friday morning, fly from Burbank to Las Vegas, and then endure a three-hour bus ride from Las Vegas to Cedar City, Utah, a small city located in the southwest corner of the state of Utah.
Cedar City, Utah has a population of 20,000. It is home to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Neil Simon Festival, and the Great American Stampede. Within driving distance of Cedar City are five national parks – Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Great Basin and Capitol Reef. If you're a skier, the Brian Head Ski Resort is nearby.
CSUN assistant coach Bob Lowe coached at Southern Utah for eight seasons (1992-00) where the Thunderbirds enjoyed great success on the basketball court. Thirteen years later, Lowe still remembers the place he once called home.
"A friendly place with friendly people," said Lowe. "My wife and I had a young son then. It was a great place to raise a family."
The trip to Cedar City, Utah, was short in length (Friday to Sunday) but exhaustive nevertheless.
7:00 am – The normally bustling Cal State Northridge campus is quiet at this early hour. The 13-man team, three coaches, three administrators, an athletic trainer, a strength coach, the team manager and a broadcaster slowly make their way towards the team bus that will take the 23-person caravan from the CSUN campus to the Burbank Airport for the flight to Las Vegas.
7:40 am – The itinerary says the team is scheduled to leave promptly at 7:45 am. However, everybody on the trip is early. Suitcases are packed. The team manager tells head coach Bobby Braswell "All 13 players are here." Coach Braswell simply tells the bus driver, "Let's go."
8:00 am – The team bus hits morning rush traffic almost immediately on the 118 Freeway. No surprise there. Welcome to LA traffic. But no one is complaining. The extra time on the bus means several more minutes of sleep time.
8:15 am –The team checks in at the Burbank Airport, and because the team's flight doesn't leave until 10:00 am, it's a great time to get breakfast with the per diem (meal money) that is provided to each player on each trip. However, food at any airport is expensive. A breakfast sandwich at the airport is $8.95 plus nearly $4 for orange juice. Sleep time sounds like a better idea than spending so much money on breakfast. The extra time also gives several members of the team a chance to catch up on their school work.
10:00 am – It's Friday, the weekend is upon us, and the jet plane is booked solid with people heading for a weekend of fun in Las Vegas. For the basketball team, it's only a connecting point for the team to board a bus in Las Vegas for the three-hour trip to Cedar City, Utah. Anytime on Friday at the Las Vegas airport is interesting. People from different parts of the country have descended upon the airport at once. It's an extremely large, busy airport so you have to pay extra attention to make sure you find the right area to pick up your luggage. After a few puzzled looks, the basketball team heads in the right direction to the baggage claim area to get their luggage, then to the bus for the long, long trip to Cedar City, Ut.
12:15 pm – The highway leaving Las Vegas is adjacent to the downtown Las Vegas area. Tall skyscraper hotels with familiar names (Caesars Palace, Trump's Hotel, the Golden Nugget, Treasure Island) are easily seen. Las Vegas has seen rapid growth in recent years.
12:30 pm – Basketball players are always hungry. They can eat anywhere at any time. A nearby food stop offers the team an opportunity to grab lunch, stretch their legs, and then it's back on the bus. The early portion of the trip doesn't offer much scenery except a vast desert with mountain ranges in the distance. The coaching staff talks basketball, the scouting report against Southern Utah is discussed, and stories about old friends in the coaching profession are relayed. Because Bob Lowe used to coach at Southern Utah, his fellow CSUN coaches are intrigued on how he handled the three-hour bus trips to-and-from Cedar City to the Las Vegas airport to basketball games around the country for so many years.
1:10 pm – When you're on a road trip, getting in quality rest is always a priority. Because the bus trip is long, most of the players use the time to sleep. Other players work on their school chores or just listen to their music on their IPods. As the bus approaches Cedar City, the temperature is changing. It's getting colder. The once barren mountain ranges are now sprinkled with snow. It's cold outside. Friday's temperature is expected to dip to around ten degrees with blowing snow expected on Saturday. At one point in the trip, you pass through a valley gorge with tall, majestic mountains on both sides of the road. It's something you never see in the Southern California area. The topography of the mountain range gives you an idea on how beautiful this area of the country is. Welcome to Utah.
3:15 pm – Exactly three hours after leaving Las Vegas, the Cal State Northridge basketball team has arrived in Cedar City, Utah. There is a little snow on the ground. The temperature is 37 degrees. For those Californians who moan about cold temperatures when the temperature falls below 65 degrees at home, the weather in Cedar City, Utah, is COLD !!! Tonight's low will drop to 12 degrees. Blowing snow is expected on Saturday.
6:00 pm – After checking into the team hotel and enjoying a quick nap, the day is just beginning. A two-hour practice was held at a Southern Utah practice facility. Normally, practice would have been held at the Centrum, the site of Saturday's game against SUU. But the Utah state high school tournament is being held at the arena, forcing CSUN to practice at the nearby gym.
7:30 pm – Practice is over; time for dinner. There is an abundance of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. The players are happy.
10:30 pm – The final agenda of the day will be a meeting in a hotel conference room to go over the scouting report against Southern Utah, Saturday nights opponent.
11:00 pm – The long, long day is finally over. GOOD NIGHT !!!
Saturday, February 23, 2013
9:00 am – Wake up … It's time for a hearty breakfast … Today's temperature is expected to reach a high of 39 degrees with a night time low of around 10 degrees … Forget the morning walk for exercise … It's COLD !!! It's sunny but the weather forecaster expects light snow plus rain later in the day.
12:00 pm – On game day, all teams have a shoot around, a chance for each team to practice for one hour and prepare a final scouting report on their opponents. Despite the Utah state high school basketball championships later in the day at the Centrum (Southern Utah's home court), the Matadors have ample time to use the arena to prepare for Saturday night's game against SUU. Despite its age (built in 1985-86), the Centrum (SUU's 5,200 home court), is a beautiful on-campus arena that provides a great atmosphere for either basketball or volleyball.
12:45 pm – At the end of practice, CSUN always attempts half-court shots in case a game goes down the wire. On this day, the team and coaches miss all of their half court attempts except for one person, assistant coach Bob Lowe, who ironically coached at Southern Utah (1992-00).
1:00 pm – Back on the bus, it's back to the hotel for rest and a pre-game meal later in the day. The day started with sunny weather, but now the cloudy, cold weather has arrived. Snow is starting to fall.
5:45 pm – A heavy dose of snow has fallen in Cedar City as the Matadors trek in the snow from the hotel to the team bus. Even the experienced bus driver has a few problems navigating through the icy, slippery streets leading to the arena. But CSUN arrives safe and sound. For the 13-man CSUN traveling squad that is made up of Californians, this type of weather is a new experience.
7:00 pm – Cal State Northridge endures a tough loss. After enjoying a 13-point lead in the first half, Southern Utah fights back to record a 73-72 victory on a basket with time running out. The Matadors miss two shots in the final seconds. Losing in this type of fashion is tough especially on the road. The day is still not over. While the players check back into their rooms, the coaching staff spends a couple hours grading the film of the game in a nearby conference room. Good Night!!!
Sunday, February 24, 2013
8:00 am – Snow has continued to fall throughout the night and mounds of snow are everywhere in Cedar City. Somehow, someway, the team is bussing out of Cedar City for the three-hour ride to Las Vegas where they will catch a connecting flight to Los Angeles. Players will again use the bus trip to get more sleep or munch on breakfast.
Noon – Again the Las Vegas Airport is packed with people heading home to different parts of the country. Many of the passengers who were on the team flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas are the people who are coming home after a weekend of gambling and just plain fun.
2:00 pm – The Matadors are greeted to the warm, sunny skies of the San Fernando Valley as the bus arrives on the CSUN campus. But the day is not over yet for the team. Study Hall starts in a couple hours.
Homeward Bound, Home Cooking, Home Sweet Home !!!