From airports to basketball courts: Dragon men off to soaring start

by Tomi Thompson

thompsonto@mnstate.edu

The Dragons soared in more than one way this weekend as they took home top honors in the Alaska Invitational in Fairbanks.

For most games, the team travels by bus, but for this tournament, the men took to the sky.

When their journey is completed, the mens’ basketball team will have flown on six airplanes through three airports while traveling from Moorhead to Alaska.

MSUM played three games while in Alaska, beating the University of West Alabama, Black Hills State, and Alaska Fairbanks to win the tournament.

Senior guard Prescott Williams says being several hours behind while in Alaska definitely requires an adjustment, but flying a day earlier is helpful.

“It helps out a lot because your body adjusts when you have time to rest so it really shouldn’t affect our game performance,” said Williams.

Junior guard Ngijol Songolo said the coaches play a big part in making sure the team is able to make the adjustment to a new time zone and schedule.

“When we travel for things like this we’re basically on the host school’s schedule; Coaches do a good job making sure we have enough time for meals and things like that,” said Songolo.

“I don’t think it affects game performance that much either, we just have to do our best to adjust to new situations.”

Senior Guard Jordan Riewer, the Alaska Invitational Tournament MVP, said one of the benefits of traveling is the opportunity to face new teams.

“Everyone is pretty excited to play three games against teams that we never really play and it’s a good experience,” said Riewer.

For the team, traveling allowed for some unique encounters.

While at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, some of the Dragon men met musical artist J. Cole.

“We were sitting eating and he walked by and we’re like, ‘He looks like J. Cole,” said Williams.

Williams then approached the artist, who gathered with the group for a team photo.

The musician then asked the team about where they were traveling to and their upcoming tournament.

For the team, the opportunity to travel together not only allows them to play teams they don’t regularly see and to meet new people, it’s a great team bonding experience.

Riewer said the teams friendships are what makes traveling fun.

“I think everyone on our team enjoys traveling and we all get along with each other so we make the trips fun,” he said.

For Songolo, his love of travel is one of the highlights of the trip.

“I love traveling; it’s not everyday that we get to take a plane to play some games,” said Songolo.

“Any opportunity to get some wins against quality opponents is a good thing to me.”

Williams said the trip allowed for a break from the normal day-to-day activities at the school.

“It’s just a good time going different places with your teammates without being in the school atmosphere,” said Williams.

The Dragon men hope to continue their perfect 5-0 season against Concordia Cobbers in their next game Tuesday night at the Concordia Memorial Auditorium.

In Head Coach Chad Walthall’s five years as head coach at MSUM, this is the fourth time that the Dragons have started their season 5-0.

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