Leaving Calgary for a Christmas vacation trip to San Diego, the men's basketball team must have had it pretty sweet over the winter break. Sun. Beaches. A bit of basketball. Sounds like a great time. Then somebody decided to try and blow up a plane on Christmas Day.
The Dinos went to the airport to try and check-in at 9 a.m. and didn't get through security until 6:30 p.m.
"We stood in line for that length of time, it was ridiculous," says Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren.
Their travel worries didn't end there. They faced a six-hour bus ride from San Diego to L.A. and arrived at their game only 35 minutes before the jump ball. And then they were delayed leaving the U.S. But what better an experience to bond a team over than collective travel headaches? And it's easily a better winter tournament experience than they're used to.
"It was like a cap stone trip for our senior guys," says point guard Jamie Macleod. "For the most part, I think every single Christmas tournament has been spent in Winnipeg. So it was nice to get into San Diego and get in to the sun."
They did get to see the San Diego Zoo and go to the beach. So it wasn't all bad.
"It was a good simulation of what nationals will be like," says Macleod. "A little bit of a longer trip, three straight games, back-to-back days, and you're in this whole new environment that's pretty exciting that you kind of treat like a vacation."
With the winter break and half the season behind them, the Dinos now have to focus on a six-game homestand, starting with the University of Alberta Golden Bears for back-to-back games this weekend. The Bears are in a transition year after 26 years under the yoke of head coach Don Horwood. Horwood retired after last year and was replaced with Greg Francis, who is guiding a team that lost their three top scorers from last season.
"It's a little bit different this year, they've got a bunch of new players," says Macleod. "It's not as much of a rival in terms of the person but the school. They're still a division rival, and it's two huge games."
The Dinos sit pretty on top of the Prairie Division with a 9-2 record, and have a date with the currently undefeated University of British Columbia Thunderbirds looming on the horizon, so you'd think it'd be easy to overlook the 5-7 Bears who limp into town having lost seven of the last eight. But Vanhooren says the team is focused on this weekend and a team that have played them hard over the last few years, regardless of where they've been in the standings.
"We're not going to look past the Bears," says Vanhooren. "They're our arch rivals. It's the Duke-North Carolina weekend for us."
A couple of games against arch rivals are not a bad way to begin a three-week homestand. The players, for one, are going to enjoy being around their friends and family, and playing in front of the home fans. Macleod, who was recently engaged to his girlfriend of seven years, says he'll enjoy spending the time in Calgary without getting too comfortable and keeping focused on winning these important basketball games.
"My fiance is definitely going to enjoy having me around for the weekends now," he says.