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Norfolk State rebuilds in paradise

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Norfolk State v Florida

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18: Head coach Anthony Evans of the Norfolk State Spartans coaches in the first half against the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 18, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

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Ever notice no basketball program ever takes a summer basketball trip to Siberia? It’s always Italy, France, Brazil, Bahamas. Sometimes Canada. Lather, rinse, repeat. And who can blame them? If you’re going to mess around and win a few games (or lose a few, that’s certainly been going around), why not do it somewhere nice where the kids can get some culture?

It’s every bit as awesome as it sounds, according to a blog written by Norfolk State forward Rob Johnson. He began penning his thoughts and experiences for the NSU faithful during the team’s recently concluded team-building trip to Tierra Del Fuego Kamchatka Sudan the Bahamas.

As we walk from the lobby to the bus that will eventually take us to the airport, Coach (Robert) Jones sings to himself, ‘Back to life, back to reality.’ Although it wasn’t as vocally fine-tuned as the version sung by En Vogue, the point still got across to the team. We were getting ready to go back to ‘reality,’ or whatever life we had before our trip to the Bahamas.

Before waking up, seeing Cable Beach from our hotel balcony, before eating 5-star meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and before the boat trips and deep sea snorkeling adventures.

(I hate to pull this old-guy stuff on Mr. Johnson, but that was Soul II Soul. I’m going to go lie down, I think I broke a hip.)

Not a bad reward for Spartans players, many of whom were on the roster during last season’s epic upset of 2-seed Missouri in the NCAA tournament. But reality is looming - what do they do for an encore? Are they a flash in the pan, or a MEAC dynasty in the making?

Before they headed to the plane that would whisk them back to the Virginia shore (which doesn’t exactly lack for beaches) the Spartans learned a little about the team they’ll put on the floor next season. Junior guard Pendarvis “Penny” Williams dropped 24 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 5 assists in the team’s final game, a win against the Grand Bahama All Stars. Complementing Williams in the backcourt was Jamel Fuentes, who averaged over 10 assists per game during the trip to paradise.

The 6'7" Johnson will be a critical player himself, as the Spartans attempt to replace at least some of the production 6'10" senior Kyle O’Quinn took with him to the NBA. Johnson has never averaged as much as 7 points per game, and must take on some of that role as a senior. 6'8" freshman Rashid Gaston may be able to contribute early on, and Johnson noted that seldom-used 6'11" junior Brandon Goode has improved over the summer and should contribute as well.

We won’t get a chance to see the Spartans play during the MEAC season, most likely. Head coach Anthony Evans led the team to unprecedented success last season, and if he can do it again, expect to see his name come up for a big promotion.