The Ohio State men’s basketball team has not left the mainland since Thad Matta became coach 10 years ago, so the Buckeyes are in for a rare treat when they fly to the Bahamas on Tuesday for a five-day stay, during which they will play two games against Bahamian teams.
The trip is part of a monthlong “Summer of Thunder” featuring 38 games involving 14 NCAA schools. Kentucky, North Carolina, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh also will visit.
To date, senior Sam Thompson said, trips to the Final Four in New Orleans in 2012 and New York last year have been the coolest of his college career. But he has never been to the Bahamas, although he has cruised in the Caribbean with his family.
“I’m excited,” he said.
Question: Is this a vacation?
Answer: No. It is a vacation beginning (Saturday), the day after our last game. We’re treating this like any other midseason trip. We obviously want to enjoy our experience there and build as much team chemistry as we possibly can. But this is an opportunity to play two basketball games against an opponent and to really grow as a basketball team, and we want to make sure we take advantage of that.
Q: You get there Tuesday, practice Wednesday, play on Thursday and Friday nights, come home (next) Sunday. What are you going to do with the rest of your time?
A: I’m going to relax. (Associate strength and conditioning coach Dave) Richardson has done a great job with us this summer … in the strength and conditioning program, and that always takes a lot out of you. I’m not opposed at all to having some down time. I’m just going to hang out with my teammates, relax, and look forward to taking care of business Thursday and Friday.
Q: What do you know about the Bahamas?
A: I don’t know a ton. I know it’s supposed to be a beautiful place. I’ve heard great things about Atlantis. I’m excited to get down there.
Q: Did you know that Atlantis, the resort where you’ll be staying, has a 141-acre waterpark that includes a mile-long river tube, nine water slides and 11 pools?
A: That works. … Everyone I’ve talked to that’s been there said to get on the “lazy river” tube, that it goes all throughout the hotel and everything. I’m sure when I get some down time, I’ll jump on it.
Q: You also can do a deep-water swim with dolphins, who will push you by your feet and propel you across a lagoon. You up for that?
A: I’ll do it. I don’t know how much Coach Matta and the guys who organized the trip will be up for it, but if they let us swim with the dolphins, I’ll definitely do it.
Q: And there’s a pool you can climb in and pet stingrays. Would you?
A: Absolutely not. I don’t like fish. Dolphins are different. The texture of fish and stingrays and stuff gets to me. I’m sure they’ve taken the stingers off the stingrays, but I can’t do that. I don’t know if we have anyone on the team wild enough to jump in with the stingrays.
Q: How about any of the freshmen? That would be a good initiation.
A: Maybe. Build some team toughness. Get them ready for the Big Ten.
Q: Who’s the best swimmer on the team?
A: I don’t know that we’ve ever been in the water (together). I’d like to say me, just because I swam a lot when I was a child.
Q: Who won’t go near the water?
A: That used to be LaQuinton Ross. I think now it’s Amir Williams and Trey McDonald.
A: I don’t think they can swim.
Q: I saw that you and Shannon Scott watched Sharknado 2 on TV the other night. Anyone on the team have a fear of that happening at Atlantis?
A: I don’t think so. Shannon wasn’t the biggest fan of Sharknado, but I don’t think he’ll be too scared. I’ll bring it up on the plane, but I think he’ll be able to rest easy at night knowing there won’t be a shark storm coming for us.