Courtesy of Millsaps Atheltic Communication
JACKSON, Miss. (Aug. 9, 2018) – For most college students, summer trips end once they move back to school. For the Millsaps men's and women's basketball teams, however, they had to come back to school to take a trip.
Both teams will head to Costa Rica today for a weeks' worth of community service, two days of basketball games and a lifetime of memories.
"For us, the number one thing with the trip was mission work," said men's basketball head coach Jimmy Smith. "For our guys to go, this is the first time most of them have ever been out of the country. It'll be good for them to go over there and do something like that but also to see how fortunate we are."
Justin LeBlanc, the women's basketball head coach, said because of the support of members of the Millsaps community, these student-athletes are getting an amazing experience.
"We first want to thank David McNair and our chaplain, Rev. Joey Shelton," LeBlanc said. "With their guidance, along with the support of the McNair Fund, our student-athletes have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ahead of them."
The trip was set up through Rice and Beans Ministries, an organization that sends volunteers to Costa Rica to help build churches, houses, classrooms and more. Smith explained that Shelton knows the founder of the ministries. So, when the basketball teams were looking for a mission trip to take, Costa Rica became the best choice.
"They came and met with us," Smith said. "They showed us a video and talked about all the things they do, and it fit well with what we were looking to do."
While much of the trip is dedicated to mission work, basketball won't take a backseat as both teams are scheduled to play two exhibition games during their time in South America. On Aug. 10, the men's and women's teams will square off against the Costa Rican national teams. Then, on Aug. 12, the men will take on Colegio de Abogados, a Costa Rican law college, while the women will face Coronado, a basketball academy.
"While we are definitely excited about competing while we are there, we are certainly looking forward to this opportunity to grow as people," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc also said he hopes that this trip builds comradery and chemistry within his program.
"We always talked about doing a foreign trip and, for us, we want to use it as a total team building experience," he said. "We have the opportunity to come together on the court for a few early practices, but we also have a lot of time to start building relationships off the court as well."
While both teams will come back from Costa Rica better basketball players, and, thanks to a few beach days, a little more tan, Smith explained that all the players involved will come back to Millsaps with much more.
"The practice beforehand is great and the team building we're able to do is going to be phenomenal, but it's the other stuff that I think will make it a great experience for everybody," he said.