Missouri women's basketball team sticks together for Thanksgiving

Friday, November 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and football are all part of a typical Thanksgiving for college students around the nation.

That’s not the case for the Missouri women’s basketball team. Just about the time many Missouri students were sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, the Tigers' plane was landing in Tallahassee, Fla., where Missouri is set to play in the Seminole Classic at Florida State.

The idea of being away from family during the holidays might make some people uneasy. For the Tigers, it’s nothing new.

“I’m a senior so I’m pretty much used to it,” forward Marissa Scott said. “I’ve never had Thanksgiving with my family (since she’s been in college).”

The Tigers instead had a Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday night at coach Cindy Stein’s house before flying out Thursday afternoon. The players have learned to adapt and form special bonds with teammates.

“We are each others second family,” Scott said. “We eat Thanksgiving dinner and we say what we’re thankful for, so it’s like a second home.”

RaeShara Brown reiterated this point.

“When you’re here, this kind of becomes your family,” she said. “You might miss things back at home, but you’re going to celebrate something different. You’re doing something you love. It’s fun. It’s only as fun as you make it. If you harp on, ‘Oh I’m not back at home,’ then you’ll be miserable. We don’t want to look at it like that. You’re going to look at it as an opportunity to build some team chemistry and get some wins.”

With all the time spent together, the Missouri players say they have become more of a team.

“Everyone is pretty close with each other,” Brown said. “We have our talks. We have our moments where we need to pick each other up. We have our moments where we’re laughing and we’re making chemistry with everybody.”

For the Tigers, Thanksgiving break presented an opportunity to focus solely on the game of basketball.

“With school and everything,” Scott said. “We come in here kind of stressed sometimes because we’re worried about what we have the rest of the week. Over Thanksgiving break all we can do is focus on basketball. We don’t have those extra worries.”

Stein’s face lights up with the mention of extra practice time. It offers a chance to work out the kinks and get in some more conditioning. The Tigers have practiced twice a day this past week—a shoot around early in the morning to work on individual skills and a team-oriented practice later in the afternoon.

“We’re not trying to kill them,” Stein said. “We’re trying to prepare them.”

Brown relishes the extra time she can put in at the gym.

“Whether it’s shooting,” Brown said. “Whether it’s cardio, whether it’s coming in and watching film with the coaches, you’re working on getting better yourself, individually, to further better the team. You don’t mind coming in here and putting your all into it, and once you’re done you can go home and relax and do it all over again the next day.”

Heading down to Florida with the opportunity to pick up two quality wins, the Tigers are full of excitement.

“Getting out of the cold weather,” Brown said. “ I really hope that it’s pretty down there, that we see some sunshine. I know that we want to go down there and win both of those games. Looking to just have a good time, getting away from Columbia and getting our mindset off schoolwork and really focusing on basketball.”

The Tigers (2-1) are set to take on the Florida A&M Rattlerettes at 4 p.m. Friday to kickoff the Seminole Classic. Missouri will then take on the No. 13 Florida State Seminoles at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Brown said coming away with two victories would set a good tone for the rest of the season.

“That would be a great RPI I think for us on our record,” Brown said. “That just gives us confidence as a team knowing we can go in there and we can compete with the best of the best.”

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