Men's Basketball
    USC's Men's Basketball Team Enjoys Exhibition Trip To Mazatlan, Mexico
    The USC men's basketball team enjoys lunch in Mazatlan prior to their exhibition game in Culiacan, Mexico.
    The USC men's basketball team enjoys lunch in Mazatlan prior to their exhibition game in Culiacan, Mexico.

    Sept. 5, 2007

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    Phase One: Getting To The Airport

    Everyone was on time, remembered their passports, and made it through security easily, arriving at the gate 2 1/2 hours early. The guys spent their time catching up on sleep, getting nutrition courtesy of the fast food faire and having fun comparing passport photos.

    Dwight Lewis was battling a sinus infection and did not make the trip. Also, Daniel Hackett was given the trip off to rest up and get back into the swing of things as he spent the entire summer playing basketball for the Italian national team and just flew back in time for the USC practice sessions. With neither of the returning part-time starting guards from last season making the trip, coach Floyd will get a chance to get a longer look at some of the new guards such as O.J. Mayo and Marcus Simmons, as well as 2006-07 members Ryan Wetherell, Kyle Austin and Terence Green.

    Phase Two - The Flight and Arrival

    The flight was fairly uneventful and actually slightly ahead of schedule. Everyone filled out the customs forms on the plane and there were no snags getting through customs or with lost luggage. Next was about a 45 minute bus ride to El Cid Hotel along the beach in Mazatlan. Check-in here too was pretty smooth, but left the team only about 20 minutes after that to drop their bags off and stop at the lunch buffet before hitting the road for Culiacan. Everyone was assured that the water and the ice at the hotel utilized purified water, so the team freely drank the water, fruit punch and sodas with ice. Many people went for the burgers, fries, vegetables, rice and mashed potatoes, while some were more daring and went for the fish and shrimp. No casualties at dinner and onto the bus they went for the alleged two-hour ride. Nearly three hours later we arrived at Culiacan for the game at the Universidad de Sinoloa Gymnasium...10 minutes before game time. The players went to the locker room, warmed up for 15 minutes and the game began a few minutes late.

    Phase Three - The Game

    The first scheduled game was against a semi-pro team called the Caballeros de Culiacan, which had four American players. The Caballeros shot the lights out in the first half and Tim Floyd's young squad went to the locker room trailing 59-52. The game used FIBA rules which meant a 24-second shot clock and four 10-minute quarters.

    After a short reprimand about desire on the defensive end, the Trojans came out and took control, outscoring Culiacan 50-23 in the second half and cruised to a 102-82 victory. Leading the way for USC were freshmen Davon Jefferson and O.J. Mayo, who both scored 29 points. Eleven of the 12 Trojans who played scored at least one point.

    The college team from Sinaloa did not show up for the second game, but the Caballeros said they would play the Trojans twice. After a tough game that didn't conclude until after 10 p.m., they thought better of it and the teams called it a night. Two other memorable moments from the night in Culiacan were spotting a huge tarantula near the locker room and strength coach Rudy Hackett witnessing a soap bar-sized cockroach come up through the sink as he washed his hands! Ah, the joys of travel!

    USC's next hurdle was waiting an hour for the postgame pizzas to arrive before the long ride back to El Cid. The ride was a little faster going back, but not without one more surprise. All of the sudden the bus driver pulled over and ran to a "quickie mart" to get a cup of coffee, startling all the sleepy travelers.

    Phase Four - A Full Day of Fun

    Since the Mazatlan gymnasium was damaged due to flooding, the players had a free day on Sunday and everyone took advantage of it to enjoy the beautiful beach and pool area and hang out as a team.

    The day began with lunch at noon for the players, followed by interviews for Davon Jefferson, O.J. Mayo, Taj Gibson and Tim Floyd with ESPN's Andy Katz who had made the trip. Katz said that some of the interviews and stories he will write are expected to be shown on Wednesday and Thursday on ESPN or on ESPN.com.

    The team then spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the ocean and pool, body surfing, diving into the pool from a small rocky ledge and riding wave runners. Even coach Floyd was caught on film taking a wild wave runner ride in the ocean.

    Abruptly the weather changed from searing hot and humid to stormy at about 7:15 p.m. as the winds picked up and it got ominously dark. By 7:30 p.m., in time for dinner, it was pouring and lightning, but luckily dinner was scheduled inside rather than by the ocean for the other meals. The team enjoyed a buffet of Mexican cuisine, followed by a show, then went off as a group to check out the Mazatlan nightlife. After an hour of hard rain, the streets had up to six inches of standing water in some places, so it was clear how the gymnasium may have been flooded following the storm last week.

    Final Phase - The Trip Back

    Everything went smoothly for the team on the way back. The team did not leave the hotel until 1 p.m., so most of the team took advantage of the time to sleep. Coach Floyd and Ryan Wetherell's dad Don, however, rented a boat and did a little fishing. Little might be the operative word, despite rumors of marlins the size of Mamadou Diarra being hauled in! Speaking of Diarra, since he is from Mali, he had to go through a different customs line at LAX, but the entire team waited for him to finish before boarding the bus back to school.

    All in all, a good trip for everyone involved. The team was able to face a challenging team and fight back from adversity, experience a new culture and most of all to get to know one another better both on the court and off.

    The team will open up the regular season practice schedule with "Midnight Madness" on Oct. 12 following the women's volleyball game that night vs. Oregon which begins at 7 p.m.