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Alaska Adventure - Day 1: Santa, Dogs and Kids

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Nick Schneiders (standings, rear) guides his team on the sled.

Nick Schneiders (standings, rear) guides his team on the sled.

Nov. 14, 2007

Spartan Alaska Adventure - Day 1

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The USC Upstate men's basketball team enjoyed a full first day in Fairbanks, Alaska. The day kicked off with a visit to Santa and then a dog sledding adventure. We then visited Woodriver Elementary School, an enthusiastic group of kids and administrators who have adopted us this week, so head coach Eddie Payne could talk to the children and introduce them to our team. We capped the day off with a hard two-hour practice at the Carlson Center.

Freshman forward Mezie Uzochukwu has taken the time to talk about the early experiences in Alaska. After reading the journal entry, check out the photo gallery of the day's events.

Mezie Uzochukwu - November 14, 2007
The last two days of our trip have been quite entertaining. On Tuesday, we traveled from Portland to Seattle and then from Seattle to Fairbanks, Alaska. The plane rides were better than the first day we flew because of the beautiful landscape that Portland, Seattle and Fairbanks had to offer. The plane ride to Fairbanks was extremely long, but all the players endured it with their ipods and DVD players. We even got to share the plane with another team, Colorado State University, who will also be playing in the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks. The funny thing is that neither team seemed ecstatic to see each other on the plane.

After approximately four hours, we touched down in Fairbanks, Alaska. After surprising stares at our 7-2 center Nick Schneiders, we were on our way to collect our bags at the baggage claim. As we proceeded down the stairs, we were greeted enthusiastically by a cheerleading squad made up of local high school and middle school girls. They welcomed us with a bunch of "welcomes" and "hellos" and with an Alaska state flag. After we claimed our baggage, we headed towards the hotel. After the whole team ate at Chili's, it was lights out after we had our last-minute talks with close ones back home.

The next day was full of excitement. After eating a healthy continental breakfast, we all caught up on our school work with study hall. Study hall lasted about an hour and a half to two hours. Following study hall was a trip to the North Pole where we all met Santa Clause and his wife. Everybody took a picture with Santa and did some early Christmas shopping. While some were shopping, most were outside admiring the actual reindeers they had next to Santa's House. We saw antlers the size of tree limbs. After saying goodbye to Santa and his crew, we headed towards a territory where most of us are unfamiliar. We went dog sledding! A lot of us were a little shy at first, but after the leadership shown by Luke Payne and Zac Rich, we realized that it couldn't be that bad. Funny moments came when freshmen Rory Spencer and Greg Maugle each took turns tasting the snow as they were pummeled to the ground while going around a curve. Those dogs can move. It was also hilarious to see the coaches and their families sled as well.

After everybody collected themselves after the dog sledding adventure, we headed over to a local elementary school were the children waited anxiously. We were greeted with open arms and we had no choice but to put on a show. After a speech by Coach Payne and the introduction of all the players, we entertained the young crowd with our pre-game warm-up which included dunks by Nick, Rory, Bobby and Rashawn. Josh Chavis added a little flavor by heaving in a long half-court shot. Then, we had a five-on- five showdown between their best players (much smaller fourth and fifth graders) and the five we chose to put on the court. After a grueling 5-minute period, the Upstate Spartans pulled off the win. After shaking hands with each kid in the gym, we headed back to the hotel were we got ready for practice.

USC Upstate Men's Basketball
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