Butler women’s basketball tournament to be relocated due to hurricane damage

The Butler women’s basketball team during a timeout last year. Collegian file photo. 

CHRIS BROWN | STAFF REPORTER | cbbrown@butler.edu

Following destruction from recent hurricanes, the Butler University women’s basketball team will not be traveling to the Caribbean in late November as originally planned.

It was announced Sept. 22 that the 2017 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam tournament will be relocated to the mainland U.S. due to damage caused from hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“As a staff, it’s our responsibility to ensure the teams involved in this tournament are not negatively impacted from a safety perspective or a scheduling perspective,” tournament director Jennifer Ashby said in a statement. “It’s also important to be aware that despite the importance of flight arrangements, hotel bookings, and basketball games, many people have suffered personal, emotional, and material damage from these storms.”

Despite efforts to keep the tournament in the Virgin Islands, tournament organizers said they determined it necessary to move it to the mainland U.S. after recent hurricanes caused substantial infrastructure damage to multiple potential sites.

It was announced on Sept. 29 that the men’s half of the tournament, also scheduled to be played in the Virgin Islands, will be relocated to Liberty University in Virginia, while two new locations for the women’s tournament will be announced at a later date.

This is the first year that the Butler women’s basketball team will be participating in the tournament, which runs from Nov. 23-25 and has been held on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands for 17 consecutive years.

“Something that we try to do from the student-athlete experience side is expose them to situations where they can get something out of it and experience what different cultures have to offer in different parts of the world,” head coach Kurt Godlevske said. “It’s just really unfortunate what happened down there with the hurricanes.”

Godlevske said he has several friends with family members in the Virgin Islands, and has been able to receive witness accounts of the destruction there.

“It’s devastating for the people of island,” he said. “Right now it’s really more of a sympathetic thought process for the island more so than us getting to go there and play basketball.”

Although he stressed the situation in the Virgin Islands was most important, Godlevske said the development has thrown off plans for many of the players’ family members who were planning to travel there for the tournament over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Senior forward Kaela Hodges said many of her family members were planning on attending the tournament in the Virgin Islands over Thanksgiving before traveling to Puerto Rico over Christmas to watch her sister, a basketball player at Northern Illinois University, play in a tournament there. With Puerto Rico also cleaning up from devastating hurricane damage, Hodges said both of those plans will have to be adjusted.

“[My family] will probably split each tournament,” she said. “Half of my family will come see me for Thanksgiving, and the other half will go see her for Christmas.”

One thing that won’t be changing at the new location is the game matchups. The Bulldogs will take on West Virginia on Nov. 23, Virginia Tech on Nov. 24 and Drexel on Nov. 25.

As for the tournament itself, Hodges said the team will be prepared no matter where it’s played.

“Whether in the Virgin Islands, in West Virginia, or in another location, we’re going to bring our A-game,” she said. “I’m sure we’re going to do everything we need to do to prep. So location really doesn’t matter to me.”

Junior guard Taylor Buford, who also had family planning to travel to the Virgin Islands for the tournament, said that when it comes to the games themselves, a different location won’t change her approach.

“We’re basketball players,” Buford said. “We’re just ready to play games. So wherever they tell us we’re going, we’ll be there.”


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