Road trips are meticulous affairs for college basketball programs, as staffs plan out every detail to ensure that they and their players can simply focus on the task of picking up a win. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, whether it be because of inclement weather or an issue with transportation.
For the CSU Bakersfield basketball team, their trip from the hotel to Chicago State Monday night hit a snag: the bus broke down. With that being the case head coach Rod Barnes, his staff, players and travel party that included the team sports information director and radio announcer had to improvise.
With the bus driver unable to get the bus going in bitterly cold weather as game time approached, the group rode to Chicago State in four vehicles. Three ordered by way of Uber and the fourth being a taxi.
“We got out about an hour before the bus was supposed to come pick us up at the hotel, and the (driver) called us and said, ‘the bus won’t crank. It’s cold and I can’t get it, but once I get someone to come and give me a boost I’ll be there,'” Barnes told NBC Sports. “We stayed in contact with him, but it got so late that we had to adjust.”
That’s when the calls were made for alternate modes of transportation, but with the four drivers getting to the hotel at separate times and taking different routes to the arena it isn’t as if the entire team arrived at the same time. Also of note was Barnes’ decision to cancel his team’s walkthrough and allow his players to get some extra rest, as it was scheduled at 10 a.m. local time (8:00 a.m. Pacific) just two days after their win at Kansas City.
CSU Bakersfield did get a workout in at Chicago State Sunday evening, so the players weren’t totally unfamiliar with the building. After going through an abbreviated warmup period the Roadrunners took care of business, beating the Cougars 67-56 with Aly Ahmed leading the way offensively with 22 points.
For some teams the lack of the usual pregame routine can have an adverse impact on their play. That wasn’t the case for the Roadrunners, thanks to strong leadership and team chemistry with seniors Ahmed and Kevin Mays leading the way.
“We had a couple new guys saying, ‘it’s cold, my feet are freezing,’ and all that kind of stuff” Barnes noted. “You’ve got to have great leadership and we do, and they help us stay focused on the task at hand.”
“One of our captains, Kevin Mays, said before the game, ‘it doesn’t matter how we got here, it doesn’t matter how cold it is, we have to get this win,'” Barnes continued. “It’s huge because if you don’t have that kind of leadership, it can get away from you.”
Having played a game at Kansas City just two days prior, Monday’s pregame travel issues could have been used as a crutch by the Roadrunners. But they simply played the hand dealt to them, and as a result CSU Bakersfield left the Windy City with a second conference win and an interesting story to tell.