The Tennessee basketball team spent Thanksgiving Day in the New York City metropolitan area touring the Statue of Liberty, preparing for Friday’s game against West Virginia and, of course, eating turkey.
After a late breakfast and a brief film session at the team hotel, the seventh-ranked Vols took a ferry from Jersey City, N.J., to Ellis Island and then on to the Statue of Liberty. There, they walked around the island posing for photographs and enjoying the view of Lower Manhattan across the Hudson River.
“I teach at the University of Tennessee,” head coach Bruce Pearl said of making the extra effort to take the team to see the Statue of Liberty. “Pratt Pavilion and Thompson-Boling Arena are our classrooms but a lot of learning goes on outside the classroom. Teachers have used field trips as an educational tool for a long time. We take very seriously the opportunities that UT gives us to compete and honor the game we play. At the same time, I believe we have a responsibility when we travel to places that we give the team social and cultural experiences that will help them grow as young men.”
After touring one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, the Vols returned their attention to basketball as they made the short drive to Saint Peter’s College Alumni Hall for a practice session. Tennessee will meet the West Virginia Mountaineers in the semifinals of the Legends Classic at 9 p.m. Friday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The game will be televised nationally by Versus.
Before returning to their hotel for a Thanksgiving dinner, the team gathered at midcourt where they reflected on the many things they had to be thankful for. Following are some of the things that the players and staff members shared:
Bruce Pearl, head coach – “I am thankful to be able to coach these guys. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my coaching staff and their loyalty. I am thankful to the University of Tennessee and the Vol Nation for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Jordan Howll, senior guard – “I am thankful for the blessings that God has given me and for my relationship with God. I am thankful for my family and all of my brothers on my team. At one time this did not feel like a family but today we are like brothers and I love every one of them.”
JaJuan Smith, senior guard – “I am thankful for a strong single mother and my little sister who have been there through the good times and the bad. I am also thankful for being here today and the opportunities I have been given.”
Chris Lofton, senior guard – “I am thankful for my family, teammates and all of the blessings bestowed upon us.”
Tyler Smith, sophomore forward – “I am thankful for my family. You never know when you might lose a loved one. You need to be thankful for the time you have with them.”
Tony Jones, associate head coach – “I am thankful for my family’s health and love along with the relationship I have with God and am able to praise him.”
Brian Williams, freshman center – “I am thankful for my family, God and the opportunity to play basketball at the University of Tennessee.”
Ken Johnson, director of basketball operations – “I am thankful for my family, friends, co-workers, my beautiful wife and daughters.”
Brooks Savage, head manger – “I am thankful for my family, both my real family and basketball family. It is the little things that mean a lot. I appreciate the experiences and relationships we develop from getting to do things like this.”