Playing a collegiate sport can bring student athletes many exciting opportunities. One of the most exhilarating opportunities for Knox athletes is the chance to go on trips with their teammates.
The Prairie Fire men’s basketball team knows just how great the experience of traveling with a team can be, as they have just come back from their trip to California.
This experience was extra special for senior point guard DJ Lewis and sophomore shooting guard Bryce Wilkinson, who were both raised in California. This trip allowed them to play in front of family and friends from back home once more.
Lewis, who has not been able to play in front of his family since his senior year of high school, was especially happy about this opportunity.
“It was an amazing feeling, I had butterflies in my stomach. I had a great time playing in front of my friends and family,” Lewis said.
Wilkinson said that having a supportive crowd was his favorite part of the trip.
“My friends came out and they were all really rowdy in the crowd. They were holding up a big fat head of me. It was really funny looking up and they’re just going crazy with my fat head,” he said.
The opportunity to reminisce about times when he got to play in front of them more often showed Wilkinson that he often took playing the game for granted in high school. This time he did not make the same mistake, as he realized how special it really was to have loved ones in the stands.
Even though not everyone could have their family come to the game, there was something special about this trip for the entire team. Sunny California is a destination trip for most people, but it was even better for junior guard Jeremiah Horton who got more out of the trip than just getting to play basketball.
“The two games we had were really fun, but also we got to see the ocean and that was my first time ever seeing the ocean,” Horton said.
Wilkinson said that chemistry can be tough and admitted that this was an area the team had struggled with. This is just another reason that the California trip was beneficial, as playing as one unit afterwards was not a problem.
“The California trip really blended us together Ñ One team, one unit. It wasn’t like five guys, just like five fingers on a hand, it was a fist. We were a closed fist. We are in unison now,” Wilkinson said.
While on the trip, the team definitely showed this sense of unity as they managed to win one of their games against the University of La Verne in overtime. This new-found camaraderie carried over into their game versus Beloit College last Friday, helping them secure another win. The final score was 50-48.
Freshman Ikenna Ozor recognizes the importance of a strong freshman class.
“It’s a lot of responsibility. People from the outside are looking at you, but the freshman can really start something great,” Ozor said.
The opportunity for greatness is especially heightened now that the team is more unified and working as “one entity,” as Wilkinson said.
According to Lewis, they are prepared to “go to battle with their brothers.”
The Prairie Fire compete at home against St.Norbert on Jan. 20.