Girls Basketball: Region Roundball Rumble

Logansport Berries ready for Rumble after historic trip to China

2013-12-31T21:00:00Z 2014-06-24T21:10:18Z Logansport Berries ready for Rumble after historic trip to ChinaSteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com
December 31, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

When you're undefeated and ranked No. 6 in the Class 4A state poll, you know that your roster is filled with some remarkable athletes. Young girls who are in tip-top shape.

But during the first week of November, the Logansport Berries had a workout they'd never had before. Their lungs burned and each breath seemed an extreme struggle after the physical training.

That's what climbing up China's Great Wall is like.

"We couldn't believe how out of breath we were once we got to the top," Logansport senior Samantha Kain said. "We're all good athletes, or so we thought. The incline was so steep. We were gasping for air when we got to the top."

So if anyone wondered if Logansport would be nervous about coming to the Hammond Civic Center on Wednesday to play West Side in The Times Region Roundball Rumble, the answer is no.

Logansport spent the first week of November in China, visiting Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and, of course, the Great Wall.

Berries coach Jerry Hoover has always been an ambassador of basketball, even back in his days as the head boys coach at Lake Central. Having his girls take part in such a grand cultural event can be summed up in one word.

"Historic," Hoover said. "The IHSAA has never allowed the program to travel overseas during the season. Our girls got to experience things most people only dream about. It was great."

Logansport athletic director Greg Fisher used to coach boys basketball in Portage. In 1996 he took a team from Portage to a tournament in China.

Logansport's strong Miss Basketball candidate, Whitney Jennings, said she felt like a rock star overseas. She was not alone. The Berries felt like The Beatles around the adoring Chinese people.

"Having never been there, none of us knew what to expect," Jennings said. "It ended up being a wonderful experience. We felt like Olympic athletes. We got to talk to high school students there. They were real interested in social media.

"I asked one girl if she was on Facebook and she said no. She was too busy."

Hoover laughed and said no one talked to him about the U.S. education law No Child Left Behind. The school day starts at 6 a.m. and does not get done until 10 p.m.

"They were too busy educating their kids than to talk about programs," Hoover said. "From 6:30 (a.m.) to 7 all they did was run. And from 7 to 7:30 they did calisthenics, and it was like boot camp.

"It's hard to wrap your mind around how big it is."

Hoover was amazed by the culture that's been flourishing for 5,000 years. The Chinese paid for the trip inside the country. The Berries stayed in four-star hotels and ate at four-star restaurants.

"One of them had a picture of Chairman Mao on the wall when he ate there," Hoover said.

He said he heard all kinds of stories before going to China, but one was true. The food.

"I would've liked it if they used more salt and pepper," he said.

"This wasn't American Chinese food, it was Chinese Chinese food," Jennings said. "After a few days, I needed some pizza and cheeseburgers."

Senior Samantha Kain enjoyed it all, even the 14-hour jet flight over. She was amazed by the driving habits of the Chinese. In three lanes of traffic, there were rows of five cars edging for space on the asphalt, she said.

So driving down Calumet Avenue on Wednesday shouldn't be a hassle.

"The food was very bland and people smoked everywhere," Kain said. "It wasn't like here. They were fascinated with the way we played. It was fun, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll never forget."

Jennings' numbers are off the charts for the Berries (11-0). The Iowa-bound guard has scored 2,169 career points and this season is averaging 35.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 5.9 steals. Not bad for a kid who is only 5 foot 5.

"We know Gary West is very good and it will be a challenge for us for sure," Jennings said.

Jennings scored 30 against E.C. Central in last year's Rumble win and was named the game MVP.

"We lost several good players off of last year's team," Jennings said. "Everyone has a role on this team. Not everyone scores. But everyone on our team is the most important person on our team."

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