ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Good Morning, Charlotte and Winthrop fans!
No disrespect intended as I usually cover Charlotte 49er athletics, but since Winthrop joins Charlotte in the eight-team Paradise Jam tournament over the next four days, I will be spending a lot of time with both teams.
One thing for residents of St. Thomas, they sure are a friendly lot. Arriving on Wednesday we were greeted with punch (alcohol included), steel drum music and a long wait at baggage claim. But wherever you go, you're greeted with big smiles and welcomes.
The plane ride in is incredible as you pass over the many Caribbean islands, including some so small you wonder if they have names. Virtually the entire airport is "open air" - baggage claim and where you check in for departing flights. I would hate to fly on a rainy day.
Rental cars are an adventure, as is the driving. You are given two reminders about traffic on St. Thomas, where you travel on the left side of the road. One is verbal - "Keep your shoulder to the shoulder." That was offered by the rental car desk attendant. They other is a large sticker on the windshield on the driver's side: "KEEP TO THE LEFT." I'm sure the rental car agencies here have had more than one car come back from someone who did not remember or take the advice.
Interested in the main trade? My room key to my hotel came with a $200 discount if you buy a pair of diamond stud earrings 1 carat or more. I also got a 20-percent coupon for another jewelry outlet left in my room.
This morning I made the trek over to the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center. I found the entry to the main campus (the arena is not there). Then found the arena (aka elaborate high school gym) at the turn for the campus' marine sanctuary. It's obvious here basketball is not the main recreational activity.
Charlotte practices first this morning, followed by Winthrop. All but one of the 49ers' players made the trip. Pepperdine transfer Michael Gerrity is still not allowed to travel with the team until he becomes eligible following the conclusion of the fall semester.