SPORTS: Men’s basketball faces series of away games
By Jorge Escudero
Bridge contributing writer
Published Friday, Dec. 8, 2023
Exhausted and dripping with sweat, the basketball players take turns filling their cups at the water jug to rehydrate before returning to the court.
An intense, nearly three-hour-long practice session concluded with most players needing to ice their sore muscles, which are pushed to their limits every day. The TAMIU men’s basketball team practices daily, five to sometimes six days a week.
Only one week before their first game of the season, they were preparing to hit the road for a series of back-to-back away games.
In his first year coaching at TAMIU, but with 10 years of coaching experience, assistant coach Gabi Laurent called this a “rodeo trip.” This reference stems from the San Antonio Spurs, when every February, they are forced to have an extended series of away games due to their home AT&T Center hosting the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
University coaches find new potential players every year at an event called the Jamboree.
“Jamboree is a junior college showcase where we see the players compete in tournaments,” Laurent said. “Coaches go to recruit, and we try to find players who fit our system, our program and most importantly, toughness; kids who will play very hard and be tough mentally and physically.”
In early November, the team was fine-tuning for the teammates to gel with one another before the frequent series of games began the season. Third-year, returning player on the men’s basketball team, Mike Ozomah said there is a certain mentality in preparing for the season and the away games.
“We already expect the away games to be more intense and the crowd to be much louder and against us,” Ozomah spoke from experience. “We try to focus on being professional and sticking to the goal.”
Though the basketball players’ heights range from 5-foot-10 and above, that’s just one aspect of the game.
“There is no height requirement, but there’s a toughness requirement,” Ozomah clarified. “How we handle pressure, how we handle coaching, not everyone can play in this team. It’s not just physical toughness but also mental toughness. The coaches are intense and rough around the edges, but it makes us get better.”
He expressed gratitude for his family as his biggest support group and for the sport of basketball as a commonly shared practice in his family.
“Ball is definitely life,” Ozomah said. It runs through my family; my uncles played, my cousins play and my little brothers play. They’re a big support group, and that helps me on and off the court, pushing through adversity and helping us mentally.”
The Dustdevils basketball team has been scheduled to travel to Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and cities all over Texas, including Laredo, to compete in the men’s NCAA Division II, where 64 college and university teams across the country are scheduled to compete with one another for the common goal of reaching the playoffs and ultimately, the finals, where one team is expected to take home the championship title in Spring 2024.