Sooners Down Under: Journal Entries

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
AUGUST 09, 2012

August 20: Joanna McFarland Travel Journal - Epilogue
Awesome, amazing, astounding -- there are so many adjectives to describe this trip and I’m only through the A’s. There’s no way I can pick just one. As my teammates have updated, we have the opportunity to participate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences basically every day of the trip.

My favorite part was the day we went to the Great Barrier Reef because I’ve always admired breathtaking views and the aquatic life that dwells there. It stunned me to see something in person that I’ve only ever viewed on a television screen. The colors of the fish and coral were so vibrant and unique; I even saw fish poop!

Other than the tourism we accomplished in Australia, we also dominated the hardwood four days of the trip. The opportunity to play four games before preseason even starts is extremely advantageous for our team. We integrated our new players early and let them get a taste of what playing at this level is really like. Another advantage we gained was getting the feel of each other. We developed chemistry on and off the court that will undoubtedly help us in the season to come. We’ve bonded in a way that can really only come from being alone with each other in unfamiliar territory, like in a foreign country, relying solely on one another.

That’s not to say the Aussies were inhospitable. On the contrary, they were some of the friendliest and most accepting people ever! I consider myself on f the luckiest people in the world to have been able to go on a trip like this with some of the people I care for the most.

I can’t thank the Fast Break Club and the people who donated money to the trip nearly enough! Without their selfless and generous contributions, the trip would not have been possible and I know that our team has grown and become better well-rounded and cultured individuals.

August 18: Aaryn Ellenberg Travel Journal - Day 11
It was a pleasure to end our trip in Sydney, a beautiful city that defines Australian culture. Not only is it one of the most magnificent locations I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit, it is also home to two of the world’s most famous sites. The Sydney Opera House, which was probably the place I enjoyed visiting the most because of how much I’ve learned about it in my art history classes at OU, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge that we, amazingly, climbed together despite some people’s (Kay Kay’s) fear of heights. These two unique and extraordinary sites are the pride of Sydney and anyone that is lucky enough to set their eyes upon them could certainly understand why.

But that is not all Sydney has to offer.

Although, those two sites capture most of the attention, I still had the opportunity to explore more of the city. From the relaxing cafes on the harbor, to the stunning skyscrapers that enclose you into downtown, Sydney has tons to offer aesthetically. Exploring the city was one of my favorite things because we just seemed to stumble across popular destinations.

One place in particular, we found the last night of our trip was a live music club. Since we had just finished our last game, we were in the mood to celebrate the success of our 4-0 record and ending our time in Australia on a high note. It’s safe to say we were all looking to have some fun that night and one thing I would say we are best at (besides playing basketball for the best Sooner fans ever) is DANCING! Where there’s music, you’ll find us front and center, belting out lyrics galore with the band as well as showing off our sweet dance moves on stage. We definitely brought the party to Sydney -- Sooner style -- as the crowd cheered and interacted with us as the band played some of our favorite songs.

If there is anything I’ll remember most about this trip, the last night would be at the top of my list mostly because I was with my girls -- my family. They are the people I love to be around most, whether it is in Sydney, Australia, or just hanging around Norman, OK.

Bottom line, this trip has been so much more than I could have ever asked for and will for sure be a memory we will all cherish and remember as an experience of a lifetime.

- Aaryn Ellenberg #3 

August 17: Nicole Griffin Travel Journal - Day 10
Thursday was one of the days that everyone looked forward to from the start of the trip. It was the day we visited the two most famous landmarks in Sydney, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. And, to top it all off, it was Whitney’s birthday. She now has a great birthday story to tell for the rest of her life.

First on the agenda was a tour of the Sydney Opera House. Most people know about its unique architecture, but I found out that one of the most interesting things about it is its history. There was a contest held for the design and submissions worldwide, but most were traditional designs. By chance, one of the judges basically started over and picked that winner out of a pool of discarded entries. When the design was shown publicly, people were shocked and wondered if such a blueprint could ever be constructed. It almost wasn’t. Originally planned as a three-year project with an estimated cost of $7 million, there were a few bumps in the road. After 16 years of construction and more than $100 million spent, the Opera House finally opened as a spectacle that sits beautifully in the harbor and completes a scene that is worth every penny.

We were given a tour of the Opera House and, once inside, learned that many different types of productions are performed in its theaters. It doesn’t show just operas, but also musicals, comedians, dance and drama and even speeches, like ones given by the Dalai Lama and the Pope. As our tour guide explained, every detail was planned when creating the space in order to provide the best sights and sounds. The ceilings are built so that no amplification is needed for performers and the exterior is shaped so that rain runs down the building and pours into grooves in the walkways and into the sewer system. Getting to see and learn about this landmark was an amazing experience and one of my highlights of the trip.

Once the tour finished, we had about an hour to grab a bite to eat before we walked to the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the climb. It was good to get that snack in, because climbing the bridge takes three hours from start to finish and is a workout. First, we had to go through all the safety and preparation, which alone takes about an hour. The tallest part of the bridge is 440 feet above the harbor and it holds a nine-lane highway and train tracks, so everything we took on the climb had to be strapped to us because, obviously, it would be very bad if something fell to the road. They had suits for us to wear over our clothes, even ones that fit me and Yo-Yo! Next we put on belts with the harness that would hold us to the bridge and our radio headsets so we could hear our guide. The next step was practicing walking up and down the ladders that lead up to the bridge. The harness clips into a wire that runs all the way to the top of the bridge and back and it takes some practice to get used to it.

Some were a little scared, like me, but it was time to go. I think the scariest part was walking under the bridge because you could see the ground under your feet while cars, trucks and trains rumbled overhead. Once we were above the traffic and you could view all around, it wasn’t bad at all. The higher we climbed, the more you could see and the more beautiful it was. Along the way, we stopped to ask questions and take pictures. This was nice because for some of us who were nervous. As you climb, you hold on to the rails tightly and look at your feet as you step. So getting a few breaks allowed us to see the view as we made our way up. At the very top, the view was amazing and it was a perfect time to see the sunset.

We finished the day with a team dinner at the harbor celebrating our trip and Whitney’s birthday. I will never forget this day!

- Nicole Griffin #4 

August 16: Sharane Campbell Travel Journal - Day 9
We have arrived in Sydney. The first impression the city gives you is from its scenery. You enter downtown over the massive Harbour Bridge and are greeted by the most famous landmark in Australia, the Sydney Opera House, before diving into a sea of colorful skyscrapers. They all demand your attention.

We had some time to walk around so I snapped pictures of all the wonderful architecture. The city has a magnificent layout and everything directs you towards the harbor, where I ended up at the end of my sightseeing. While gazing upon the bridge, I could only think about how we were all signed up to climb it on Thursday. There is no bridge like this in Oklahoma. It is enormous. It has an arch that spans the reaches into the clouds. I can barely make out the people who are walking across it. They look like ants as they waved to us far below while own climbing adventures.

That night, we took the bus to Maitland, about a two and a half hour drive from Sydney. It was good to get that rest after waking up early and arriving from Melbourne just that morning and fun to see a part of Australia that wasn’t part of the city.

By the time we reached Maitland, however, we were eager to play some basketball. The game against their All-Stars was pretty fun. The gym was freezing again, but not quite as cold as the one we played in the night before in Dandenong. We found our rhythm early in the game and had some big runs. We are also figuring out many of the things we’ll need to work on, but we will have everything right when the season comes around.

We’ve also adjusted to the difference between the NCAA and FIBA rules. The one that I have had to adjust the most is probably the 3-point line. Since it is moved back, my shot really isn’t as accurate. The 24-second shot clock has sped our offense up a little bit, but also kept us from having to play defense very long. So that’s not all bad.

The girls from Maitland were very nice. We ate the traditional pizza and sandwiches with them after the game and shared a bunch of laughs, going back and forth making each other say different things in our different accents.

This trip has been incredible and I’ve done a lot of things that I never thought I would have the opportunity to do in my lifetime. Obviously, my favorite part has been our visit to the Cairns Tropical Zoo. I held an animal that was cute and soft -- a koala -- and an animal that was scaly and cold -- a black-headed python. I never thought I would hold a snake like that! Never! I was very nervous, but I’m happy I did it. Of course, I loved feeding the kangaroos. Even though they were really lazy, they are so adorable and cute!


- Sharane Campbell #24

August 15: Morgan Hook Travel Journal - Day 8
Have you ever wanted to sing karaoke so badly that you walked three miles uphill in the rain in shoes two sizes too small just hoping that you might stumble upon Chinatown? Never had that urge, huh? Well that is exactly how some of us spent our Monday night in Melbourne.

Here’s what happened -- a few of us really wanted to sing some karaoke together. The concierge found a place a few blocks away. It couldn’t have been more than a four-minute walk, but after walking for nearly 15 minutes we realized this particular karaoke place was no longer in existence. We finally decided to ask a local if they knew a “hoppin’ place” to hit up and they stared at us like we were a mob of kangaroos. So we proceeded to create our own adventure.

Between Aaryn and Coley (Nicole Kornet) trying to sound Australian and Maddie in agony from her shoes being too small, we were a mess of a group. We randomly turned corners and followed lights and, after a while, ended up walking right into Chinatown. We made a beeline for what seemed to be the only place on the street with lights still on and -- like a sign from God -- the lights spelled karaoke. Finally, we thought our mad escapade through the streets of Melbourne was ending, little did we know two members of our group didn’t have the common sense to know to bring IDs. So we didn’t even make it inside. (It’s our motto: all of us or none of us.) The night ended with us reversing course away from the buzz of neon lights.

Tuesday morning the team went as a group to Queen Victoria Market. We all got up excited to have a chance to buy items in our price range. This was the largest flea market I had ever seen. It looked as if it spread across four city blocks. Girls were buying stuff left and right. Lyndsey, I think, bought the most. Portia bought an entire wardrobe. Whitney bought stuff for her husband (that sounds so cool now) and Kay Kay bought some wood thing you blow into and it makes cool sounds (Ed. a didgeridoo).

It seemed like the market was a success; however, not everyone was as fortunate. Poor baby Maddie jumped off the bus, took 10 steps into the market and realized she needed cash. We all withdrew from an ATM just outside the market. Whit and I got our money out and patiently waited for Maddie when we heard the machine making all kinds of noises. It eventually froze, then read YOUR CARD HAS BEEN RETAINED, THANK YOU. Maddie looked at us and exclaimed, “Thank you? Like I’m supposed to reply ‘no worries’ after you just took my only access to money from the rest of our trip?” She took it like a champ. Had that been me, I would have started crying.

I guess you can’t expect everyone to have a great time 24/7. But, the not-so-fortunate times make for a great laugh later and are the stories we will tell for years.

Later that day, we finally got to play basketball again. At that point, the term sounded foreign to us. It was about time we were able to pick up a ball again. It’s interesting how the mood changes when you’re going to play a game. All the others times while traveling, the bus is pretty loud. People are laughing and carrying on. On the way to a game, it is almost completely silent. Most of us are in our routines or listening to music on headphones. Even though the drives are much longer on this trip, it’s not much different than how we get ready for the real thing.

Once we arrived at the gym in Dandenong, we realized this team was going to be tough. Immediately our game faces were on. All the play from earlier in the day was much into the back of our minds and the game was all were focused on. We came out firing and rebounding like crazy. Perhaps we were just trying to stay warm.

In the meetings we had preparing for this trip, our coaches tried to explain to us how the gyms were kept colder than in the United States. To us, colder meant five degrees, not 30. At one point in the fourth quarter, Aaryn and I were on the bench and I grabbed her hand and it felt like an icebox. It’s a great thing that little girl can shoot no matter the conditions of her frozen hands.

If only y’all could see just a glimpse of what this season will be like. All I can say is start getting excited. This is a special team. It’s going to be fun.

All the events and adventures we’ve already encountered have us laughing from the moment we wake up until the moment our heads hit the pillows to get our beauty sleep. Wednesday we’ll leave Melbourne for our final stop on the tour.

I can’t wait to see what memories Sydney has in store for us.

Oh, and for those of you wondering how Maddie can make it four days without money, you must have forgotten what great teammates she has!

- Morgan Hook #10

August 14: Sherri Coale Journey Down Under - Part 4
I watched the city of Melbourne wake up this morning. Huge, heavy fog hugged all the skyscrapers, but lifted its skirt just enough to give us early morning explorers a peak at this unassuming city on the water.

The Yarra River looks like chocolate milk meandering lazily down the center of Melbourne, its length truncated by a series of bridges, each beautiful in its own right yet seemingly unrelated to one another. Trendy restaurants and urban art flank its banks. People, and bicyclers, move briskly on left, on the left, always on the left. I have to concentrate when I walk just to avoid creating chaos. Funny how I never imagined the steering wheel on the right side of a car and the traffic moving on the left side of the road to extrapolate to pedestrians as well. I feel clumsy. And I can see my breath in August. Feels like I’m in one of those time warps where everything is upside down and lovely all at once.

On our first morning here we visited the Old Melbourne Gaol. It’s a tourist trap in the middle of town, but it made for great pictures and it gave our group an idea of Melbourne’s roots. We learned all about Ned Kelly -- the real one (as opposed to Mick Jagger or Heath Ledger). We saw firsthand the staging of sins in old Australia -- the solitary cells, the regular rooms, and the less confining spaces for eight. Each was its own floor, the top the least repressing as it was the closest to freedom. We heard tales of guys who tried to escape (it was highly dissuaded), viewed the cat of nine tails wailing board (monthly lashing was a standard of most sentences), and saw the phrenologists’ busts of those who were hanged (they made them to try to find a common denominator for criminals). Funny thing was, what these people got locked up for was nothing: being on the street without money, whistling…. a three year old was even found guilty and imprisoned. His crime? He was alone. In old Australia they locked you up if it even appeared like you might commit a crime. And there you were “rehabilitated” so that when you were finally released you’d never even think about it. I think I heard our group as they were exiting saying quiet prayers for the time and place in which they were brought into this world.

My favorite place in Melbourne was the Royal Botanical Gardens. Just off the banks of the Yarra, the city peels back and exposes God’s museum. The entrance is marked by busts of Hercules and Belvedere leading to a pathway lined by fragrant alyssum, colorful pansies, and rolling grass peppered with gnarly, enormous trees. And it just gets better from there. We traipsed through wet and dry rain forests, Chinese and Japanese coves, rock and stone grottos, and around ponds that housed black swans. It is winter here and yet the vegetation hardly showed signs of dormancy. Camellias thrive, ferns and bear claws fight to fill in any natural gaps and, though the shrubs and bushes burst with color and flood with fragrance, it is the trees who steal the show. We saw Monterey Pines and Norfolk Island Pines, and gigantic White Pines. We saw Great White Oaks and Silky Oaks and Moreton Bay Figs. And we marveled at every strain of Eucalyptus tree that ever grew. From peeling, colored bark to twisted gnarly knobs to roots the size of cars and limbs who pleaded to be climbed, every tree seemed to have a story, a personality, a presence all its own in this busy natural environment. I know now why Maya Angelou wrote about those stately oaks in tribute to those rare folks who shape our lives for the better. I swear I could feel my Granny there presiding over us all, getting such a kick out of me getting a kick out of hugging all those trees.

In the middle of the garden stood the majestic Shrine of Remembrance, a memorial for all the men and women who served Australia in armed conflicts. Its design was inspired by one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and every nook and cranny serves a purpose. Its details and symbolism remind me of the Oklahoma City Memorial in that its sacredness reverberates. Its centermost space is called the Sanctuary where a Stone of Remembrance lies as a symbolic gravestone for the lives lost in battle. Made of marble, it is sunk where no hands can touch it and visitors must bow their heads to read its inscription: “Greater love hath no man”. The First World War ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Each year on that exact date and time a ray of sunlight shines through a small hole on the eastern side of the ceiling illuminating the word “love.” Over a hundred pages of mathematical and astronomical data were developed to ensure that occurrence for the next 5,000 years. That type of deliberate thought driven by passionate appreciation makes me embarrassed for the sloppy way I often live. Gratitude permeates the Shrine of Remembrance, and if you’re lucky it sticks to you and you take it with you when you go.


August 14: Nicole Kornet Travel Journal - Day 7
You know that little check-up room at the doctor’s office where the nurse locks you in just to keep you waiting anxiously for the doctor to show up? That’s the mental image that popped into my head when I first laid eyes on a Melbourne jail cell. Except it’s not just you, your mom, and the doctor in that tiny little room. It’s you and seven other prisoners in a dingy, disease-ridden cell with nothing but a bucket of waste, eight straw beds, and two tiny windows to keep you company.

If I was Australian and lived back in the day I would like to stay as far away from jail as possible. But officers back then had quite a different way of thinking. The more prisoners the merrier was their goal. Our precious Aussie guard for the day, Michelle, said that people were taken off the streets and thrown into jail just because they didn’t have any money. Officers believed that if you didn’t have money, you wouldn’t be able to eat, and if you couldn’t eat, you’d be likely to steal. So what’s the logical thing to do? Lock ‘em up of course! Officers thought they had it all figured out. Just lock up the poor people before they even had the chance to think up a crime. Good one officers. These poor “criminals” hadn’t even done anything wrong, but before they knew it, they were already behind bars in a teeny-weeny, “Smellbourne” jail cell for absolutely nothing. At this point, I felt proud to be an American. Where at least I know I’m free to walk around Costco with absolutely no money in my pocket -- just my broke self -- and frolic around the place taking free samples as I please. That’s the American way alright!

However, the Melbourne jail tour was quite the experience. Being able to learn about such fascinating prisoners from all sorts of different backgrounds really made you count your blessings! Walking around with my Oklahoma group made it even better. One of the cells, No. 17 to be exact, was known as the haunted cell. Miss “Tour Guide” Michelle told us plenty of ghost stories about this creepy cell. She said that they’ve had a number of people walk in and feel some sort of odd presence around them. Others have said they’ve heard voices whispering the words “help me.” So what do us kooky Oklahomans decide to do? Go inside the cell of course! All 25 of us crammed inside laughing and joking all the way. We’re like the Ghostbusters: we ain’t scared of no ghosts. Much to our dismay nothing magical happened and we just continued on with our tour.

It’s cool to walk in the footsteps whose generations before you once walked. Cool, yet somewhat terrifying as these footsteps were once the footsteps of many felons, but I tried not to think about that too much. Before I knew it, the tour was over and we were on our way back. Our little field trip had come to a close and it was time for my afternoon nap.
So this is where my journey ends, hope you all enjoyed my recap of the day. I can’t believe I’m here actually, in Melbourne, Australia. Sheesh. So, so, so proud to be a Sooner to say the least. Cheers from Melbourne, mate! C’ya next week!

- Nicole Kornet #1 

August 13: Sherri Coale Journey Down Under - Part 3
Think San Diego without bumper to bumper traffic, blaring emergency sirens, or throngs of people. Then add heavily treed mountains, lots of enormous rocks, air void of pollutants and haze, and you’ve got Cairns.

In other words, it is 75 degrees with a light ocean breeze all day long. And I have never seen a bluer sky.

For us Cairns has been a race to DO! We’ve crammed as much activity into three days as any humans possibly could. We rafted down the rapids of the Barron River, we snorkeled around the Great Barrier Reef, we fed the crocodiles and held koalas and somewhere in the middle of all that we found time to play a little ball.

Our first game here was against the Townsville Flames, a “local” team that bused four hours down to give us competition. Their story is fantastic. Their point guard is 29 and she’s a doctor. Not a doctor of philosophy or a doctor of social sciences, she’s a DOCTOR -- as in she fixes people’s bodies and makes them well. And she plays ball because she loves it; she says she can’t imagine not getting to go up and down the floor. It doesn’t matter to her if anyone pays her or even if anybody cares to watch. Playing ball makes her heart beat. Her joyful 40 minutes of abandon made me proud to know her, if only for a while.

We got to the gym early -- a fairly good idea since we hadn’t been in one in four days. While the players tried to uncurl their bodies, the rest of us tried not to think about the chips and salsa that lay prepared in each viewing booth around the court. These people have marketing and promotion figured out.

Following rapid fire introductions (these people talk so fast and yet they’re never in a hurry. I find it an absolute conundrum) we lined up dutifully across the free-throw line extended, placed our right hand over our hearts and sang every word of our nation’s fight song. Those words seem to weigh so much more across the water. I always feel so privileged and so proud.

Our first 10 minutes were a thing of beauty. Whit was called for a travel on our very first wing entry. Ball in the air, feet in the air. “Not a travel in the States, buddy!” I chimed as the 13-year-old ref ran by. (OK, maybe he was out of middle school but he could not have been a day over 17). At quarter’s end we were 3 of 22 from the field. I reminded them in the huddle that whitewater rafting was not necessarily the best preparation for exquisite 3-point shooting. So we tried to keep playing hard -- with an open mind and a sense of humor -- and by half we’d made some progress, at least in terms of points on the board.

We scored 33 in the third quarter (that’s not easy when there’s NOT another team on the floor trying to guard you), and yet the best part of all four quarters combined was the lack of undulation in the line across our roster. One player would sub for another and you couldn’t really tell that we’d made an exchange. Lyndsey ran so hard in transition, Vegas guarded like an All-American (I know, right?????), Portia attacked the offensive glass, Morgan dished out about 10 assists, Sharane got every loose ball, and Whitney had a stat line most of us can only dream about. When people do what they can do as well as they can do it, the whole explodes from the sum of its parts. We’re a long way from that happening yet, but I saw individual bars being set, standards being employed. You have no chance until you have that. Right now, we have a shot.


August 13: Maddie Manning Travel Journal - Day 6
I have been sitting here staring at a blank piece of paper for the past 30 minutes just trying to think of the words that could even begin to do this trip justice. It has been such an unbelievable experience. Every day has been filled with breathtaking adventures. How many people can honestly say they have snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef or went floating down the rapids through the rainforest of Australia? Not many. Not only can we say that we have done so, but we have done so with such special people... with our second family.

I think that’s the beauty of this trip. It goes far beyond rapids, zoos, and reefs. We will look back and reminisce on these adventures; however, it will be the laughs, the craziness, and just the people we spent it with that will be remembered. Those are the stories that will be told.

This trip has served as the start of something new, something great: the 2012-2013 Sooners. So get ready. We may not be going down the rapids, feeding kangaroos at the zoo, or snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef when we return to the states, but don’t expect the excitement to stop. I know we don’t.

Now that I got that all out, i should probably hit a little on what I’m actually supposed to write about. Sunday, we packed up our belongings and left Cairns to head south to Melbourne. Cairns was a beautiful city. It had the mountains, the ocean, and great shops. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about leaving. How could anything top that? However, as our bus pulled into Melbourne the "oohs" and "aahs" started coming from each seat. Melbourne is such a neat city. It looks like a futuristic Gotham. (For those of you that don’t know, Gotham is the city Batman is set.) There’s even a Batman Park across the street. Looking out the window in the hotel room I see hundreds of buildings reaching up to the skies, a beautiful river flowing right below, and lights that look like Christmas time. There are trains constantly going and people all over the place but it remains quiet, that is expect for the men running down the street singing a fight song. Apparently there was a big AFL (Australian Football League) game going on downtown tonight.

Tomorrow we set out to tour the Old Melbourne Jail and have most of the day to explore the city before going out for a nice team dinner. But for now I go to bed, anxious to wake up and see what the day has in store!

- Maddie Manning #23

August 12: Portia Durrett Travel Journal - Day 5
I had an awkward picture of Australia in my mind. Taking my first steps off the plane and walking on the stomping grounds around thousands of Australians, I didn’t know what to expect. I imagined we might be dropped into the Outback -- no water in sight -- with kangaroos chasing after me. I guess I was wrong.

This has been the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited.

The first thing in front of me is an incredible scene of mountains and the ocean, and this is only the view from my hotel room -- it's just breathtaking. The streets are packed with commuters grabbing bites to eat, going to work, or just socializing. It would be hilarious trying to figure out these roads. The steering wheels are on the right side of vehicles (it’s weird to get on and off the bus on the left) and the lanes are switched from how it is in the U.S. I would never get a license.

Honestly, this trip has been enjoyable since we’ve arrived. Rafting, petting animals, scuba diving and playing my first game with my news teammates has all been great. The opportunity to play games before the season starts, and in a totally different country, was both overwhelming and motivational, but the team welcomed me in without any problems. Taking this trip with a group of people who have become my second family has been awesome and makes me want to work harder.

As we were playing our first game against the Townsville Flames, it felt like we had been together as a team even before I committed to OU. It was really enjoyable figuring each other out and getting better throughout the game. Also, being able to adjust to the way basketball is played in Australia and the rules made it more competitive. You know all the rules differences before you start the game, but once you’re playing, you forget about it all and just get in the zone.

It definitely has been a fun experience so far. I’m looking forward to the season and playing in many more games as an Oklahoma Sooner. I’m also looking forward to what else is in store for this team as we continue our adventure in Australia.


- Portia Durrett #31

August 11: Whitney Hand Travel Journal - Day 4
Our third day in Australia consisted of the most anticipated activity of the trip for me -- snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I don’t think I could have been more excited going into today! I have a bucket list at home, and I got to cross it off today, August 11th, 2012. Our day began earlier than usual because snorkeling in the reef is an all day event here in Cairns. We ate breakfast at the hotel, which if you haven’t heard has the most breathtaking sunrises over the ocean than anything I could imagine. We took a large ship -- one that could hold up to 350 passengers, although there weren’t that many -- out of the Port Douglas Marina. The marina was about an hour and a half bus ride from our hotel. The trip there was full of energy, excitement and anxiety about the day that was to come.

Once we got to the marina we had another hour and a half boat ride to the diving location on the outer edge of the reef. I was not exactly picturing the size of the waves during this trip because that boat was rockin! Thank goodness our precious trainer, Carolynn Loon, equipped us with motion sickness patches because we were all looking a little green in the face. (I think TK may still be below deck somewhere.) We eventually made it to the reef and it was a fabulous experience.

The boat actually docks with a large pontoon that is anchored near the Agnicourt Reef. The first thing we did was -- you guessed it -- eat. The Quicksilver Tours provided a feast of seafood and salad in a large lunch buffet. There were so many options of viewing the reef. There was scuba diving, helicopter rides, submarine tours, and, of course, snorkeling.

I chose to do the submarine first while I was dry after lunch. They had seats below the deck of the sub they we crammed into. I will say I faced both my fears of claustrophobia and sea monsters in a matter of 25 minutes! While the submarine was a dry way to see the coral, it was our chance to see some of the larger creatures that rarely venture into the snorkeling area. Among the hundreds of different types of fish, we were able to spot a sea turtle and a stingray. Our guide told us reef sharks usually stay in the crevices or on the ocean floor during the day. We never spotted them and I am certainly not complaining! The submarine tour was extremely insightful and really prepared me for the snorkeling adventure so I actually knew what I was observing.

There were four large reefs in the snorkeling section, all of which were swarming with the most colorful fish you could even imagine. Picture Finding Nemo without the animation -- it was gorgeous. There was any kind of coral you could imagine with all different shapes, sizes and colors. The complexity of the reef struck me more than anything. These hard plants that will tear your feet to shreds are alive with their own community. My favorite was the spaghetti coral that waved around with the water. There was also another kind of hard coral that was very bright blue and added awesome color to the towers of coral in the reef. The coral formed somewhat of an underground mountain with caves and crevices.

I LOVE the water, but the mystery of the ocean is terrifying to me. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that I grew up with Texas beaches, which--no offense to Texas--pale in comparison to Northern Australia and the Pacific Ocean. Anyway, I was quite anxious getting in the water with the huge abyss in each direction. The water shocked me at first and was freezing, which made my nerves and senses increase even more. It was exhilarating! There were yellow boundaries, which were close to the boat, and white boundaries you were not supposed to go beyond. My buddies for this adventure were Maddie Manning, Morgan Hook, Nicole Kornet, and Chandler Coale. We stayed in the yellow to conquer most of our Shark Week fears and get used to the snorkel, but in order to really see the pretty reef we had to go way beyond our comfort zones into the white. The waves were fairly big today, which did not make this task an easy one. For the first ten minutes I felt like my snorkel was going to drown me, but I finally got the hang of it and saw unbelievable sights. My favorite part of the swim was about 20 minutes into the dive; we got out pretty far and swam above the coral that was about two feet from the surface. We were up close and personal with so many different creatures. Amazingly colorful blue, green, pink red, clear, black, yellow, and every other color of fish were swimming in and out of the coral. My favorite creature was a neon green and pink fish. It was memorizing! I could have watched it swim all day because it was so beautiful and unique. Eventually the waves began to swallow us, so, reluctantly, we went back. As we were almost to the boat they began the fish feeding which attracted these giant fish that would just swim right by us! The red bass were huge and loved the food apparently because they were getting crazy.

The coolest part of the dive for me was realizing how creative God was. Morgan and I kept saying it over and over that God never ran out of ideas. Believe what you want, but today strengthened my faith and it is hard for me to believe there is not a master, creative, loving God in charge. His creation is absolutely mind blowing! How fortunate are we that we get to experience it through opportunities like Australia with our best friends? Today gave me awesome perspective and made me incredibly thankful for my sport and where it has and will take me!

Our adventure was over and we dried off and headed back to the marina. This ride was not as energetic as the way in because everyone was absolutely exhausted. But, the day was beyond words incredible. When else are we ever going to be able to say we snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef? Hopefully some other time, but if not, for now, it is officially crossed off my bucket list and it did not disappoint! I am still so in awe of the day--it does not feel real! Well, that’s all for now, mates!

Goodbye from the Oklahoma women’s basketball team down under!

- Whitney #25

August 10: Lyndsey Cloman Travel Journal - Day 3
Crocodiles, kangaroos and koala bears…oh my! Today we got the once in a lifetime chance to visit the Cairns Tropical Zoo. Being an animal lover, I couldn’t wait to see all the exotic creatures Australia had to offer. Anxious and ready to interact with the animals, we started our tour face to beak with all the different types of breathtaking birds of prey. Red, blue, white and multi-colored birds filled the air as they flew around the walk-through habitat. I was lost, mesmerized while looking at all their different shapes and sizes when, suddenly, a bird flying full speed smacked right into my chest. My loud scream from the surprise attack only accomplished, however, was doubling over my teammates, who grabbed their stomachs and slapped their knees in laughter. After my mini heart attack, I realized I was okay and began chuckling too. Once outside of the bird cages, I was eager to see more that the zoo had to offer.

Further down the gravel pathways, I spotted the pride of Australia -- kangaroos! At first, I wasn’t sure how to approach the animal in fear of it kicking me. I took a deep breath and went for it. I filled my trembling hand with kangaroo food pellets and bravely stuck it under its mouth hoping that when it was done I would still have all five of my fingers. To my surprise, the kangaroo was extremely friendly and even allowed me to take a few photos with him. I scrubbed my hands through its dense fur as it laid comfortably under a shady tree. Begin able to touch an animal like that was amazing!

In the next enclosure, I had to face my fear of reptiles. Walking into the crocodile exhibit sent chills through my body. Even though it is fun to see others on television flirt with life or death near these crocs, being near one was nerve racking. Their massive jaws and huge teeth are more amazing in person. The frames of their bodies looked solid as a rock and made me develop much more respect for those who work with the animals every day.

After snapping photos of Elvis, the largest croc at Cairns Zoo, we made our way to the koalas. My heart could not do anything but melt for these furry little creatures. Their gray and white fur felt just like soft, fluffy balls of cotton. I wanted to do nothing more than to hold the koala and give it a huge hug. After taking a team photo along side with one, we all got the opportunity to take our own individual pictures with another. I enjoyed this more than anything. I held Kayla the Koala for my picture and she was incredibly adorable. She held on to my arms tightly as if they were tree branches, but patiently posed with all the members of our team one by one.

To say the least, this was one of the best days of my life. Being able to see Australia and experience this beautiful country and interact with unique animals was beyond my wildest dreams. There is nothing else like it and I can’t wait to enjoy the days to come.

- Lynds #44

August 10: Sherri Coale Journey Down Under - Part 2
The Barron River cuts through the Karanda mountains of western Cairns and pools into a lake where crocodiles live. They didn’t tell us about that last part until we got to the end.

Day one’s adventure was a whitewater rafting trip down a cold, cold river underneath a blue, blue sky. The juxtaposition of the marbled rock, the lush green vegetation and the foaming water made for a landscape like something out of a movie. When I was younger I watched, breathlessly, the movie, “A River Runs Through It.” I could not imagine a real place being that beautiful. But I have to tell you, that movie had nothing on the old Barron Falls in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

The whole whitewater operation is a gas--what a gig for a twenty-something year old who loves adventure and is in the middle of his “who am I and where do I fit in this world stage.” That pretty much nails our tour guides. They divided our clan into four groups of seven, each boat being captained by a guide with as distinct of a personality as the boats to which he was assigned. It was crazy how well matched each raft was with its leader.

The fellas on our trip gathered in one raft, filling it with bravado and an enormous amount of human weight. If they’d been bags on a plane, the raft would have been grounded. I’m still not sure how that tough boat stayed afloat. And as fate would have it, their whitewater guide was a woman. Ah sweet serendipity! She didn’t take one bit of anything from any one of them, and she gave them all they wanted in return. Sometimes life just works.

The supposedly brave (but mostly just silly) crew boarded a raft together, bound for the outer edges of the adventure, or so they proclaimed. They were the noisy, splashy ones who when learning to paddle while in the still water had their boat turning in circles like water in a drain. Suffice to say, they did more talking (and giggling) than they did listening, a trait their wily guide seemed to catch onto quickly. He would give them the time of their lives. Ornery doesn’t even begin to describe his personality, and they felt it intensely, especially in their surfing escapade on the aptly named “mother-in-law” drop. So ironic, I thought, that it was Maddie Manning getting drowned but it would be our dear Whitney who ended up getting tossed out of the boat. The river seemed to have a very stubborn and quite in tuned mind of its own.

The rest of the team tip-toed to the third raft trying not to get wet, shrieking at the thought of the cold, and the shape their hair was going to be in when they got to the end of the ride. We had soooooo much fun with that. They let loose somewhere along the way, though, and dove in with the rest of us. Those with weaves weren’t that worried and the rest of them would deal with the dry, crackly hair later.

Watching some of those guys float down the river on their backs, feet high in front, eyes to the sky, I was reminded of how little by little traveling abroad stretches people, especially kids. I was awestruck by the size their worlds might be by the time they finish four years with us at Oklahoma. If we do it right, when they leave they will barely recognize who they once were when they first walked through our doors.


August 9: Kaylon Williams Travel Journal - Day 2
Wow! Our first day -- or maybe I should say our first two days -- ended with some adventure. After our journey from Oklahoma to Australia, we didn’t slow down for a minute. Today we went whitewater rafting. For those of you that don’t know what that is, apparently it is where you go into the mountains deep in the rainforest to a river and sign your life away so that you can let the current float you and your friends on a rubber raft back down while bumping and splashing against giant rocks and all that great stuff!

The Barron River was our pathway. The bumps, water and scenery were amazing, even though I can’t swim one bit. Our raft guide made sure I was safe, but also that I had the full experience as a swimmer! Let’s just say that the water is COLD! The guides said the river had class 3 rapids and, in Australia they only have six classes so we got into a bit of the challenging stuff. The Barron begins at a mountain, flows over a falls into a gorge carries that energy in the area in which we rafted. It ends in the Pacific Ocean, not too far away from the airport where we arrived. All the trees and different creatures in that live out there were just awesome to see. Although, we didn’t see one that we know very well back at home. I’ll give you a hint: it’s big, scaly and strong! A crocodile, mates!

Well, that’s it for day one from Aussie!

- Kaylon Williams #42 

August 9: Jasmine Hartman Travel Journal - Day 1
After a four-hour layover in Dallas -- eating Popeye's chicken, making silly videos and talking on cell phones to family -- finally we boarded the amazing double-decker Qantas 747 bound for Australia. I've never been on a plane like this one. It was filled with 73 rows seating over 700 passengers. We were all excited and didn't dread the 15-hour flight due to the individual access of complimentary entertainment (movies, tv, radio, games, and books). However, we were already prepared to have an open mind and sense of humor.

I started to watch one of my favorite movies, The Avengers. I knew that would keep me up for at least three hours. It would help me get used to the time difference. 

Two hours into the flight the Australian-based crew created a menu of appetizing meals. I chose to have the Texan chicken with creamy tequila sauce, cilantro rice and fire roasted corn. I figured you couldn't go wrong with chicken. It also came with an apple crumb pie and a chocolate bar for dessert. After the cabin crew collected the trash they gave us what they call a refresh bag, which includes a bottle of water and some little extra snacks. This was awesome. They did a great job with making people feel comfortable.

Then it was time to rest. The lights were dimmed. Shut eye for the Aussies.

The night wasn't so bad. The time flew by fast since I slept through it. With three hours left we awoke for breakfast. I had the cereal with seasonal fruit, yoghurt (hey, that’s how they spelled it), a cranberry and orange muffin and orange juice. After breakfast I watched the movie Five Year Engagement. It was a very funny romantic comedy. After that, we had an hour left of flight, so I decided to skip through Bridesmaids. I love that movie. Can never get tired of it. It's super funny and entertaining and everyone on the team quotes it all the time.

The Captain spoke over the speaker to inform us that we had less than ten minutes until landing in Brisbane. That’s where it hits me. Wow, how exciting was that. We had been waiting months to get to Australia and were finally about to touch down. Still, we would only be there to go through Customs and get on another plane for a 2 ½-hour flight to the first city in the tour, Cairns. You would think being in a different country, things would be a lot different but there wasn't much difference except for driving on the left hand side, the currency, and of course the accent: “G’Day, mate!” Our travel representative from Basketball Travelers, Hollas Hough, met us at the airport and explained a bit of the history and culture of Cairns. The tropical north Queensland is diverse in natural resource as it is in cultures and people that call the region home. The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were the first to arrive followed by the Dutch and eventually Captain James Cook, who claimed the coast of Britain. It features the famous Great Barrier Reef. The reef is home to the greatest variety of flora and fauna species found in any one location in the world. The scope of the reef encompasses nearly 22,000 individual reefs and an area of 348,000 square kilometers, about double the size of the land area of Oklahoma. 

We’ll see the Great Barrier Reef Saturday, but for now, it’s time to rest.

- Jasmine Hartman #45 

August 8: Sherri Coale: Journey Down Under - Part 1
They say Australia is so great that you forget it took you 17 hours to get there. Kind of like childbirth I suppose. If I so chose to extrapolate the metaphor at this point, I would say that our water had broken and we were in the throes of contractions. But I'd quite prefer to move beyond it, I've decided. Suffice to say, we've been packaged and sent off and we are enamored, every last one of us, at the prospect of it all.

We had seven days together before we boarded this plane--one meeting, eight workouts, quite a bit of team eating, and a whole lot of scrambling and packing.

As I write, I'm sandwiched in the very center of the very center aisle of this enormous aircraft. I am typing with my elbows pinned down to my sides, while I watch my computer's battery life slip adamantly away. In vain I am searching for an accurate foundational sentence. Something that will convey where we are as a group. Something that will adequately reflect the potential of the journey ahead.

And all I can think about is Vegas' tweet late the night before we left: "All I have in my bag so far is my sense of humor and my open mind."

Way funnier if you had been in our midst the past week, but still a fitting capsule. And classic Aaryn Ellenberg.

This group is so fun. And they get it. The former without the latter makes for grade school recess. The latter without the former, makes for a military march. And though it really honestly only happens on rare occasions, no profession is better than coaching when the former and the latter meet in the middle and get married. These twelve guys we have the privilege to coach like one another. They like ball. And they like learning. We got a lot done in eight sessions. And I think all involved had a darn good time doing it.

We can't wait to play. But this crew won't let any moment on the journey to the court escape unscathed. They have a heartbeat that just might reverberate across the water.

We've crossed the equator and we're headed toward the time line where we'll lose Wednesday and magically pick it back up on our way back through next weekend. More from the land down under...if we ever get there.

- SC



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