Techsters Get a Small Taste of the Big Apple
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Jasmine Bendolph and her Louisiana Tech teammates took a small bite out of the Big Apple.
Bendolph and the Lady Techsters were in New York last weekend for the Chartwell Holiday Classic hosted by St. John's and found a little time away from the basketball court to experience life in the big city.
Following their triple overtime win over Prairie View on Sunday, the majority of the Tech travel party loaded the team bus and headed into the City where they made stops at Madison Square Garden, Ground Zero and Times Square.
"My favorite part was when we got to go to Times Square see all the beautiful lights and big stores and we got to walk around with all the people," said Bendolph, who like most of her Lady Techster teammates was making her first trip to New York.
"When I'm watching TV, I see it on movies. When you are there in person, it is so beautiful. When it's nighttime, it seems like it is daytime because it's so bright outside and everyone is wide awake and walking around. There is so much to do there."
The group had a pretty good guide for their excursion.
LA Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon knows New York ... and believe me when I say that New York City knows T-Spoon. After all, she spent a good portion of her adult life playing for the WNBA New York Liberty.
"It was fun," said freshman forward Whitney Frazier. "It was like (Coach Spoon) was famous. When people met her, they were so happy to see her."
Weatherspoon said she felt it was important that the players got an opportunity to experience and visit some of the landmarks of New York City.
"It's not just New York, it's anywhere we go," Weatherspoon said. "It's an opportunity to go around and to understand where you are and the history of that place; to understand what people have been there and done. To understand that you don't have it as bad as you think sometimes.
"New York City is a place that accepted me and that means the world to me. I wanted them to get an opportunity to see it and to understand what it is all about. It's a lot of fun, and there's a lot of history." The first stop was at Madison Square Garden. And although the team didn't get to enter the facility due to the play Peter Pan being held at the time, they still were able to walk around outside the arena and see the graphic illustrations and descriptions of some of the historic events, teams and people who have made the site famous.
"When Coach Spoon took us to Madison Square Garden, we got to see her banner (hanging outside) and her name was down in the floor from when she played (with the Liberty)," Bendolph said.
"They got a chance to see (some of) the history of Madison Square Garden and how beautiful it is," Weatherspoon said. "How many famous people have been in that place and just why it is so historical. You want them to understand it. There is reason behind why it is so historical."
Next was a stop at Ground Zero. The Tech party was able to view the site and the memorial through glass windows from an elevated view across the street. It was a surreal moment.
"If you have a heart then you are a little emotional about it," said Weatherspoon, who was only a few blocks away from the Twin Towers giving a presentation as a spokesperson for Planters Peanuts on the morning of 911. "What those people went through and are still going through even today."
Despite the fact that the LA Tech players were in elementary school when the tragic attack on U.S. soil occurred more than 10 years ago, they still understood the significance of the horrific event.
"I was in third grade (when it happened)," said Frazier. "I remember when it happened watching on TV. As old as I am now, getting a chance to see where it happened was important. I was just sad. I can't really explain it. Just standing there and looking across (at Ground Zero) and imaging what happened there ... it was sad."
The final stop of the night was at Times Square where the Christmas season was prevalent and the streets were packed with New Yorkers and tourists alike.
"Everyone talks about the lights and the Christmas tree (at the Rockefeller Center)," Weatherspoon said. "For them to get a chance to walk around in the mix of a lot of people from all over the world is a unique experience. The weather was cold, and they got a feel of New York City at Christmas time."
Frazier and her Tech teammates took it all in ... or at least aspects of it.
"I liked seeing all the lights in New York City and going to the shopping center part with all the lights and billboards on 42nd street," Frazier said. "We went shopping. We ate some peanuts (from a street vendor). We walked around and just looked at everything."
As memorable as the Sunday night trip into the city was for the Tech players, coaches and support staff, it might have been dinner the very first night in New York that stood out the most.
Weatherspoon made arrangements and took the team to Sylvia's, a world famous soul food restaurant where they not only ate some of the best fried chicken, fried fish, ribs, collards greens, potato salad and cornbread around, but also enjoyed some pretty good company. Kathy Jordan, the wife of the Reverend Al Sharpton and a good friend of Weatherspoon's, served as the host for the group.
"Sylvia's ... that was my hangout spot whenever I wanted to eat and relax," Weatherspoon said. "It is a very, very famous place that many, many people go to. Tourists are there all the time. For our young ladies to be able to eat some of the most famous soul food around, well the kids enjoyed it. They showed us incredible hospitality. For them to show our kids that kind of love was beautiful."
According to Bendolph and Frazier, the food wasn't half bad either.
"That restaurant was really good," Bendolph said. "My favorite was the collard greens that they made. It tasted like soul food from back home."
"I think that was my favorite part of the trip," Frazier said. "It was really good food, and the people were so nice. I want to go there again someday."
One Lady Techster that wasn't wowed by the bright lights of New York was senior forward Shantale Bramble-Donaldson, who lived in the Bronx from age 13 until she left for college. Bramble-Donaldson, who got an opportunity to play in front of dozens of family and friends during the tournament, said she was glad her teammates got a chance to experience the city.
"It makes me feel like, this is my home," Bramble-Donaldson said. "(My teammates) got to see a little bit of me. It made me feel good because they can understand why I dress this way or why I talk this way. They probably didn't understand before, but now they know. This is me. This is where I come from."
"We always talk about some of the clothes that she wears," Bendolph laughed. "We weren't too familiar with how they dress up there. We got to see all kinds of styles while we were in New York."
And New York got a chance to see a legendary brand of basketball - Lady Techster style.