CANCUN, Mexico — The University of Arkansas women’s basketball team returns to the hardwood facing Iona in a noon ballgame today. The Razorbacks are taking part in the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, Mexico, and playing conditions are….interesting.
The all-inclusive Moon Palace is a beachfront resort located south of Cancun on the Ycatan Peninsula. There is more than 100 acres of tropical foliage and lush golf courses surround the resort. The beach front is steps away from the hotel’s doors.
But basketball? There are no gyms at the resort so the event managers, Triple Crown Sports, brought in wooden basketball floors and set them up in the ballroom of the hotel. There are a couple courts for practice and the main game court in the Galleria Ballroom on the second floor of the main hotel.
Picture a hotel ballroom. A large open space with carpet and chandellers and you’re on the right track. This ballroom’s dividers have been pushed out of the way opening up two large spaces. The court is centered in the space with portable metal bleachers on all four sides. Press row is a set of elevated risers opposite the benches. The chandellers have been pushed back so that nearly 30 "shop" or garage lights could be suspended over the playing surface.
Two old school scoreboard panels have been suspended from the corners with shipping straps and portable baskets fill the endzones. Last night, the "arena" hosted the Cancun Challenge final with Kentucky and Stanford’s men’s teams needing overtime to decide the winner. Kentucky prevailed but was that disco music from the lounge below us that we heard during the timeouts?
But none of it seems out of the ordinary to the players. Arkansas gathered for its pregame meal at 8 a.m. Thursday morning followed by a shoot around at 8:45 a.m. The team watched a bit of film and returns to the gym around 10:30 a.m. for today’s noon tip.