Ivy Leaf - Spring 2009

A Magical Journey

Men's basketball team travels to the first ECAC Holiday Basketball Festival at Disney World


Mickey Mouse and all of his Disney World friends played host to the Penn State Altoona men’s basketball team January 1-5 as part of the first-ever Eastern College Athletic Conference Holiday Basketball Festival at Disney’s Wide World of Sports outside Orlando, Florida. Head Coach Alan Seretti and the Lions played a pair of games against Neumann College and Johns Hopkins University but also had plenty of time to explore and enjoy the Disney theme parks.

On New Year’s Day, the Lions boarded a bus bound for Pittsburgh International Airport where the team would catch an afternoon flight to Orlando. The traveling party included Seretti, assistant coaches Tim Keech and Tyler Franklin, three student-assistant coaches, and twelve players. Many of the Lions, including student-assistant Drew Shaner, either had never flown or did not remember the last time they were on an airplane.

"Coach Seretti tried to give us a speech the day before about how safe flying is," chuckled Shaner. "I mean, I love Coach to death, but I was trembling after that speech." After touching down in Florida, the team made the 25-minute trek to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and watched part of the Rose Bowl before leaving for practice at 8:30 that night. Friday, the Lions finished a morning practice and spent the entire afternoon at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The attraction of choice was the Hollywood Tower of Terror, a simulated freefall thrill ride based on the television show The Twilight Zone. Senior guard Curtis Geiger laughed when asked how he and his teammates liked the Tower of Terror.

"The whole team went on it together, and I did hear some screams, but I won’t call guys out," smiled Geiger. "It was pretty scary though, and I think a whole row of us ended up locking arms during the one big drop. Everyone was talking about it the rest of the day; it was really funny."

That evening, the Lions were free to hop from park to park or return to the team hotel. Saturday and Sunday, the squad followed almost the same routine. A 9:00 a.m. wakeup call was followed by breakfast and a morning walk-through to prepare for the evenings’ games. The team meal began around 4:00 p.m., with Saturday’s game against Neumann at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday’s game against Johns Hopkins at 8 p.m. After defeating Neumann 64-56, the Lions lost to Johns Hopkins 75-45. Then, it was back to reality as the squad departed for the airport by 3:00 a.m. Monday.

Penn State Altoona Athletics Director Fredina Ingold, who accompanied the Lions on the trip, noted how special this opportunity was for everyone involved.

"We are very fortunate to have been selected to participate in the inaugural ECAC Holiday Festival," she said. "The players are a wonderful group of young men who have represented themselves, their team, and the University with the utmost class. The entire trip was an overwhelmingly positive experience for everyone, and I could not be more proud of our team."