MU men's basketball players say trip no day at the beach

Monday, November 22, 2010 | 7:27 p.m. CST; updated 4:00 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 23, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s basketball team is in paradise.

The team left on Sunday morning for Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, just outside of Cancun, to play two games in the Cancun Challenge. With such a destination, the players' free time is an important topic.

Junior forward Laurence Bowers said he plans on spending a day of the trip by the resort pool and beach, but added that it will be only be for a little bit.

“You got to know that you can’t be out doing this or out doing that when you got a game the next day,” Bowers said. “You got to be mature enough to know what you can and can not do.”

Sophomore guard Michael Dixon Jr. said the team needs to relax in their rooms before the games rather than sit out in the sun.

“Personally, I think we all just need to stay in our rooms, stay focused and ready for the game,” Dixon said. “I mean, it’s cool to be in Cancun, but we’re there on a mission. Cancun is a nice place, but I’m just worried about that court in Cancun.”

Missouri will be playing on a court that is located inside the resort the team is staying at Aventura Palace, an all-inclusive adults-only resort that stretches over an 85-acre area of beachfront.

While the players disagreed about how they would spend their free time, they all agreed that winning is the sole focus of the trip, not the beach.

Junior forward Ricardo Ratliffe's said his main worry is that if the team does spend time on the beach, it won’t be to relax but to work out, with Anderson having the team do grueling runs through the sand.

“We might do some workouts on the beach, but we are not going out there to vacation, we are going out there to get a job done,” Ratliffe said. “This is my first time going on a trip, but I know Coach Anderson is all about preparing for the game.”

Trips to warm locations at the beginning of the season are becoming customary for the Missouri basketball team. Last year, the Tigers went to South Padre Island in Texas, where they reached the finals before falling to Richmond. Two years ago, Missouri went to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Missouri finished third after falling to Xavier but defeating USC in the third-place game.

In this season's Cancun Challenge, Missouri plays at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Wyoming, then, depending on results, will play at either 6 or 8:30 p.m. Wednesday against Providence or La Salle. The Tigers return from Mexico on Thursday.

“We’re not there to go to the beach, it’s a business trip,” junior guard Kim English said. “They could’ve sent us to Antarctica, and it would still be the same concept.”

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Deniz Koray November 23, 2010 | 12:33 a.m.

Do you know if they are going to be playing the games in a converted ballroom just like last year? I remember watching last year's Kentucky-Stanford game on TV, and the court looked so weird. I wonder if the organizers have improved the facilities this year.

I guess last year's tournament was also a reminder that teams shouldn't spend too much time relaxing on the beach, as the extremely talented Kentucky team had to go to overtime to beat a pedestrian Stanford squad. Hopefully, Mizzou does well. They look like big time favorites this year.

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