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Florida Trip
Coach Flockerzi (pictured) snored so loud he woke himself up

Florida Travelogue - Day Two: "Happy New Year"


Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Welcome to Florida. I had a good night’s sleep despite Coach Flockerzi’s snoring, which, in fact, was so loud he woke himself up. At 8 a.m. I stumble to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, where I find down home southern cookin’ - biscuits & gravy, grits, cheese grits (if the regular grits don’t tickle your fancy), home fries, bacon, sausage, ham, you name it. If it causes a heart attack, they’ve got it.

The only players in the dining room are a pair of first-years, John Casnocha and John Bedford, which is confusing since they share the same first name. It’s a nice opportunity for me because I haven’t gotten to know them yet. I ask how they like Amherst and each gives an approving nod. Bedford managed to secure a single room in Valentine Hall, directly above the dining hall - prime digs for a rookie. Casnocha likes his roommates and is enjoying his first experience away from Mom and Dad (not that he doesn’t love you). The conversation turns to news from home. Casnocha wonders what kind of summer job he’ll be able to secure in his hometown of San Francisco when the school year is finished. Bedford and I joke that a position on a trolley car or an internship with RICE-A-RONI would be sufficient. Our regional stereotypes are taken in good humor. Bedford, from New Jersey, is pumped that his beloved Jets made the playoffs.

More players filter in - Ryan Faulkner, Steve Zieja, John Donovan, Pat Fitzsimons, Adam Harper, Russell Lee, Don Quinn and Neil Somers. I visited Russell last night to borrow some toothpaste, which I neglected to pack. He brought his Playstation 2 on the trip and, at the time, was demonstrating his prowess as a triple threat - carrying on a phone conversation, writing a letter and dominating his opponent Sulaiman Jenkins in Playstation Soccer, all at the same time.

After breakfast - actually too soon after breakfast (those biscuits and gravy stay with you for a while) - I take a jog with Coach Hixon through some nearby neighborhoods. Coach is on a story-a-minute pace, which makes our run pass quickly.

Back at the hotel the cat comes out of the bag. Flowers arrive for Coach Flockerzi, and now everyone knows it’s his 24th birthday, a secret he tried, to no avail, keeping under his hat. Later that afternoon a waitress at a nearby eatery uncovers the secret and threatens to bring a gaggle of crooning waitstaff to our table - all of whom would belt out a horrendous rendition of Happy Birthday - to which Luke (Flockerzi) says, “If you come over and sing, I will leave.” It turns out Luke used to wait tables at TGI Friday’s and has heard the song butchered one too many times.

This afternoon’s practice is pushed back to 2:00. Many of the players are exhausted from yesterday’s early arrival. Practice is at the Lakeland Christian School about three miles from our hotel. It’s a tidy facility, with three full courts, a training room and a weight facility. Our unofficial host in Lakeland is Dr. Raul Lopez ’75; an Amherst grad and college classmate of Coach Hixon’s whose son is a budding basketball player at Lakeland Christian. Upon arriving we notice a local college team is already practicing in the gym. They’re on one court and we’re on another. The two teams sniff each other out like dogs at a fire hydrant.

Practice goes well. Most of the players are regaining their legs after a long holiday break. A few suffer minor muscle pulls but the majority of the squad flows up and down the court like water from a busted fireplug. Coach Hixon modifies a pair of inbounds plays and everyone’s confident they’ll produce layups sometime during the season.

Sophomore guard Frank Perry is the only player who doesn’t practice. He’s had a bout of the stomach flu and looks a bit piqued. He’d rather be playing, and his gut is killing him.

On the way home a few of the guys stop at Smoothy King, which is right next to the hotel and a favorite hangout among the players. Zieja, Faulkner, Somers and Donovan decide to trek down to Gold’s Gym for a quick weight workout.

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, is pretty low key. A late dinner rounds out the celebration for most. It’s been raining uncommonly hard for about four hours - the kind of rain where you can’t tell if it’s coming down on top of you, in from the side or actually rising up from the pavement. Five inches fall and it comes down in buckets.

We’re one day closer to Friday’s game at Webber International, a small NAIA school in Babson Park, Fla. No one knows what to expect from Webber but Coach Hixon seems to have them scouted pretty well. We’re currently 7-0 and ranked 10th in the nation, and everyone expects to leave Florida undefeated.

-Kevin Graber, Sports Information Director