Thanksgiving in paradise

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With three victories in three games, Duke won the Paradise Jam Tournament and a piece of hardware.

A couple of weeks ago, the team and I spent Thanksgiving break in the Virgin Islands playing in the Paradise Jam Tournament. This was the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent away from home. Although I missed my family, a trip to the Virgin Islands for Thanksgiving wasn’t the worst way to spend the holiday. It was truly paradise -- 85 degrees, sunny and surrounded by crystal-clear blue water. Hey, I’ll take it.

The trip was an amazing experience, and I was happy to be able to spend it with the team in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We stayed at a resort in St. Thomas right on the beach, overlooking the bay. The view was the best part. Being able to look outside your balcony and see the ocean is something that never gets old.

Although we were there to have some fun, we had to stay focused because we were mainly there on a business trip. The majority of our days were filled with either practice or a game, followed by nightly film sessions.

We played three games at the University of the Virgin Islands, going undefeated and beating Xavier, Central Michigan and Kansas. We were named Paradise Jam Island Division Champs and got our first piece of hardware. But we're not done yet. We have plans to get a couple more by the end of the season.

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Though it was a business trip, Duke found time for some fun, including a snorkeling trip to Turtle Bay.

Playing three games in three days can be tough on your body and because Coach P is a firm believer that saltwater heals, she made postgame dips in the ocean mandatory.

So after every game, we all got straight off the bus and headed down to the beach. This was one of the most fun parts of the trip even though I swallowed a lot of saltwater trying to fight off Tricia Liston and Haley Peters from dunking me.

The trip was definitely a great bonding experience for the team. The first night there we were welcomed with a nice dinner and Virgin Island-style entertainment -- a traditional drumming band, island dancers performing with fire and a lady dancing on giant stilts. Coach P even got in on the action and did her best impression of Virgin Island-style dancing. It was quite entertaining, to say the least.

It just wasn't the same not being home for Thanksgiving. I really missed harassing my little sisters and eating all the amazing Southern comfort foods, watching football and Christmas shopping. But I was glad to be able to spend it with my second family. I have a whole team of sisters to harass now or be harassed by (however you look at it). I feel truly blessed to be a part of this Duke family.

For many the highlight of Thanksgiving is, of course, the Thanksgiving meal. For me, on a typical Thanksgiving at home, the highlight is my mom’s amazing slow cooker Southern mac and cheese.

This year, being away from home, it was a little different. In the Virgin Islands we had a traditional Thanksgiving meal and it was good, don’t get me wrong, but there just aren’t many things that can compare with the delicious, Southern-style, home-cooked food I usually get to divulge in.

The best part of my food experience this year didn’t come from dinner, but from the snack. Each night a couple of hours after dinner we would get a “snack” (aka a second meal), and I’m not kidding when I tell you they brought out a big bowl of crisp, juicy bacon -- yes, bacon! And who doesn't like bacon, right? It was a big hit among the team and definitely the highlight of my Thanksgiving meal this year.

To top off an awesome trip, the last day we went on a catamaran ride to go snorkeling. The view of St. Thomas from the boat ride was truly incredible. We went to a small island called Turtle Bay, where the water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. While we were snorkeling we saw the coral reef, sea turtles, sting ray and a lot of colorful fish.

It was a great trip. On the last day after our snorkeling excursion several of us spent our final hours in paradise doing what I do best -- tanning. A couple of my teammates and I relaxed by the pool and soaked up the sun, which was the perfect way to end a great trip.

With the season in full swing, our trip to the Virgin Islands was the perfect little getaway for everyone. We took care of business, had some fun and I got a nice little tan to go along with it, making it a successful trip.

Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful and spending it with my second family in one of the most beautiful places in the world was really something to be thankful for. Now it’s time to get back to the grind.

It’s hard to believe we’re already 10 games in, but we have some big games coming up, and we’re all focused and ready to keep things rolling.

Go Duke!