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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

By Bethany Bradsher

Hoops squads face contrasting itineraries


When athletes play a sport for long, they realize that their game and practice schedule cuts into some of the vacation time their peers usually enjoy.

Baseball players, for example, have only a fraction of the typical summer vacation. Football players lose the last part of their summer and plenty of fall weekends.

And for basketball players, including those on both of the East Carolina squads, Christmas vacation is not the lengthy post-exam sabbatical anticipated by most college students.

Guard Courtney Captain, a junior transfer from San Jacinto College, only spent two full days in his hometown of Galveston, TX.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said Captain, who got up early Christmas morning to get in as much Christmas with his family as possible before his midday flight back to Greenville. “It’s just what I’ve gotten used to.”

After their Dec. 21 game against Toledo, the members of the team caught connecting flights to their hometowns from their connecting city of Chicago, said Jody Jones of the ECU sports information department. Then they had to report back to campus by Sunday evening, Christmas night.

“I guess when you play basketball, it’s just one of those things you sacrifice,” Jones said.

To hear him tell it, Sam Hinnant spent a significant portion of his brief break in one of Charlotte’s five malls. Exams and basketball had left no time for shopping, he said, so he made up for it in a pre-Christmas frenzy.

“Really the only thing I did is see my friends I haven’t seen in a while, and I went to the malls,” said Hinnant, who is averaging 12 points a game for ECU.

To help work off their Christmas dinners, the Pirates had two practices on Monday, Hinnant said, and the workouts had the spirit of optimism as the 3-6 team looks toward the remaining two-thirds of its season.

“I think we needed that break,” he said. “Now we’ve got a clean slate. Right now we’re saying, ‘Just take each game one at a time.”

Despite their truncated Christmas break, the Pirates get to stay close to home for most of the next month, with seven of the next 10 games scheduled at Minges Coliseum. In the first of those home games, ECU will tip off tonight at 7 p.m. against Limestone College, a Division II school from Gaffney, SC.

In stark contrast are the Lady Pirates, a group that had twice as much time off for Christmas but came back to Greenville only to embark this morning on an 11-day road trip.

“We had more days off than we had last year, but I thought it was important, with all the freshman we had, that they spend a little more time at home,” said women’s head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener, whose roster includes seven freshmen and just six players from the upper three classes.

The 6-3 Lady Pirates will resume play on Thursday against Davidson at the Hyatt Regency Invitational in Atlanta, and after the tournament they will take off for Alabama to play the University of Alabama on Jan. 2 and UAB on Jan. 6. To cap off their travels, the women will play in Memphis on Jan. 8 before finally returning to their home court.

It’s the longest trip in Baldwin-Tener’s memory, but she believes her young team can benefit from nearly two weeks away together, she said.

“Being as young as we are, I think it’s good to know each other a little bit,” she said. “Travel tends to bring a team together, and that shows on the court.”

The most trying circumstances on either team this holiday season may belong to Baldwin-Tener herself, who has a 23-month-old daughter and an eight-week old son who are still in Atlanta with family. She will see them some during the Atlanta tournament, and they will probably travel to Alabama for the games there, but Baldwin-Tener knows that she’ll see very little of her children during the stretch.

“That will be the hardest thing for me,” she said.

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02/23/2007 01:11:57 AM

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