After a long day of travel on Saturday that put the Cal State University Bakersfield men’s basketball team into their New York hotel rooms at 3 a.m., the Roadrunners decided to take things easy for the rest of the day.
While the Roadrunners were scheduled to practice on Sunday afternoon that plan was shelved in favor of a more pragmatic decision — rest.
The Roadrunners were the first team into the National Invitational Tournament headquarters hotel Sunday, giving them nearly a full day to get acclimated to the eastern time zone. The last time the Roadrunners played on the east coast was in January when they played Dartmouth.
Of the four teams left in the NIT, CSUB had the longest journey and the only team on a dramatically different clock. By 9 p.m. Sunday, teams and fans from Georgia Tech, University of Central Florida and Texas Christian were arriving at the Marriott Marquis, the Times Square headquarters for the tournament.
One of the interesting parts of the travel experience with the Roadrunners was watching coach Rod Barnes swiftly organize getting the team’s luggage off the bus and into the hotel. Of course, athletic director Ziggy Siegfried provided similar leadership after the team’s charter plane landed at Newark’s airport, because the team’s players, cheerleaders and band had to help get their bags off the plane and into the buses that would take them to the city.
Unloading at the hotel and led by @CoachRodBarnes to get @CSUBAthletics set for the night pic.twitter.com/tqeFhELoMn
— Louis Amestoy (@LouisAmestoy) March 26, 2017
A SOMBER START TO SUNDAY
SOMBER START TO SUNDAY
While the Roadrunners probably didn’t get to bed until about 4 a.m. on Sunday, the team was up and ready to go for a 1 p.m. visit to the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. The site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has become one of the most visited sites in New York City, and one of the most somber.
“It was pretty sad and touching,” said CSUB senior Jaylin Airington, adding he was impressed with how the area has been transformed.
Most of CSUB’s team was too young to remember the attacks on Sept. 11, 2011 but Airington and teammate Matt Smith were both in elementary school when the attacks happened. Smith is 23, while Airington just turned 24.
“I was in school when it happened,” Smith said. “It was nice to see to really get a better feel for it.”
Airington said he remembered the impact the day had on his family.
“I was just waking up, I had spent the night at my cousin’s house, and my aunt she was praying when it happened,” Airington said.
VIDEO: CSUB REFLECTS ON SEPT. 11
With the practice schedule tossed for the day, several players, including Airington and Smith, headed over to Junior’s Restaurant, which is famous for its cheesecake. The restaurant is located across the street from the hotel, and Smith was ready for a sample even before he got off the bus from the visit to the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.
“I’m not a sweets guy, but I like a cheesecake,” Smith said as he walked into the Times Square restaurant, which has its original location in Brooklyn.
Smith’s go-to cheesecake? He decided to go with apple crumb cheesecake.
“It could have been a little colder,” Smith opined. “But the flavor? Outstanding.”
The rest of Smith’s teammates opted for the strawberry cheesecake.
SAMPLING NEW YORK CHEESECAKE
STOP AND STARE
As University of Central Florida was arriving at the Marriott Marquis crowds began to form around the 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall, one of the tallest players in college basketball. The native of Senegal was stopped by people in the ground-floor lobby of the hotel for pictures. For the most part, Fall graciously greeted fans and onlookers.
Fall has averaged 11 points per game this season in 26.4 minutes per game.
The Roadrunners face a full day on Monday with an 8:30 a.m. wake-up call, followed by practice at 9:30 a.m. At noon, the Roadrunners will participated in the NIT’s press conference and then later that evening an NIT dinner.
CSUB will get their first look at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday morning during a shoot around.