Nov. 22, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Most family Thanksgiving traditions include large family gatherings, over-eating and football. For members of the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, Thanksgiving means sunshine and basketball.
Head coach Lisa Bluder has always challenged her team with a difficult nonconference schedule. Tournaments across the country, involving some of the best teams in college basketball, take place in tropical locations over Thanksgiving break. Bluder has made it a habit of going to a warm location to play the best in the country over the holiday break and this year the Hawkeyes will play in Miami at the Florida International Thanksgiving Classic.
Senior Morgan Johnson knows the quality of basketball played in Thanksgiving tournaments and believes it only helps the team down the road.
“These tournaments do a lot for our team,” Johnson said. “It gives us a chance to build our tournament resume by playing quality opponents. Facing nationally ranked teams also gives us a good measure of where we are as a team and what we need to work on.”
Basketball is the main focus on the trips, but Bluder and her staff make sure the student-athletes enjoy their time in the tourist locations. Senior Trisha Nesbitt has visited places like Lake Tahoe, Cancun and the Bahamas in her career and has memories that will last a lifetime.
“We go on these trips to win basketball games,” Nesbitt said. “But it’s always fun to experience places we have never been. I’ve been snorkeling, taken a wave-runner through the ocean and seen some beautiful beaches. I love that our coaches give us the full experience.”
Spending a holiday like Thanksgiving away from the normal family traditions can be tough. Thankfully, Bluder and her coaching staff have created a family atmosphere to surround the Hawkeye women’s basketball program.
“This team is my second family,” Nesbitt said. “I’m so close with all of my teammates and coaches. We really are a family here at Iowa and that makes these trips really special.”
This week’s trip to Miami will be Johnson’s fourth, and final, Thanksgiving break tournament. She also has numerous memories from year’s past, but will always remember the team chemistry that made the excursions special.
“We have been on some great trips at pretty cool locations,” Johnson said. “I’ll remember the places we went and the games we won, but I’ll always remember the time spent with my teammates and coaches. We have had a close-knit team every year, and this year is no exception. I’m really looking forward to spending time with my teammates and making more memories.”
The Hawkeyes open the FIU Thanksgiving Classic against host school Florida International on Friday at 5 p.m. (CT). Iowa will then face West Virginia or LSU on Sunday at 12 or 2 p.m. (CT).