For a team who takes the game of basketball so seriously, the Murray State Racers know how to have a good time on and off the court.
From practical jokes to video games to making everything a competition, fun is something the 28-1 team is never without.
“It’s really important (to have fun),” senior guard Donte Poole said. “You don’t want to be so serious or not have any type of personality off the court because you’re so focused on basketball or you’re mad at something that went bad on the court. So I think when we’re not playing or off the court it’s just some time for us to be around one another or act goofy or be ourselves so that’s great and it builds on the trust and the chemistry.”
After a quick poll of some of the players, the general consensus determined Poole to be the goofiest player on the team.
“I don’t want to vote for myself but I think I start a lot of it. It’s bad being the leader,” Poole said sarcastically. “I’m just so goofy. I like to have fun, I like to see everyone else around me laughing and having fun, even if someone has an attitude I try to do something to cheer them up. I would say me or maybe Ivan. Everyone wants to be cool or have a serious face but when I come around you’ve just got to laugh. I’m always going to do something to make you laugh.”
Poole graduates in May and will be missed by many, including his roommate, junior forward Latreze Mushatt.
“I’m going to miss him a lot,” Mushatt said. “Donte, Ivan and Jewuan they all act different and all three of them are funny in their own way, but Donte’s my roommate so I’ll miss him more than anything and he’s a clown, man. Everything he do is funny, you just have to pay attention to him.”
Poole doesn’t work alone, the whole team gets involved when it comes to pranking. Earlier in the season the newcomers were the target of the players’ shenanigans.
“One day before ESPNU All-Access came, actually the day before, the freshmen were playing with us, they threw all our stuff out so we decided to grab all the freshmen phones and even the newcomers’,” Mushatt said. “We taped them up and put them on the back of the door when you walk in. We grabbed (junior guard) Stacy Wilson’s phone and found a picture of him, a picture that made you say ‘Oh!’ One of those type pictures, like a ‘what in the world?!’ type picture and we put his phone in the front, taped to the door, so when you walked in you see his picture and everyone else’s phone taped up to the door.”
Senior forward Ivan Aska said he doesn’t miss an opportunity to have fun and make the guys laugh and Poole testified to his former roommate’s antics having experienced them firsthand.
“One time we were in the dorm and Ivan found this fake bird – it looked so real,” Poole said. “I remember coming in the room one time and he had the bird sitting on my pillow, so I turned the light on and went to lay down and I just lost it. I thought it was a dead bird but it ended up being fake.”
Aska was quick to poke fun at himself, including laughing about mishaps in the cold Alaskan weather during the Great Alaskan Shootout in November.
“We wanted to go see the moose and knowing we weren’t supposed to be close by them because they would attack you and stuff – everybody was scared and everybody was on their toes,” Aska said. “Well, I guess the moose had moved (toward me) and not knowing there was a huge pile of snow, it was tall, I just took off running and ran through the snow and onto the bus not knowing I was covered with snow.”
The funny moments in Alaska didn’t stop there. Aska was getting off the bus carrying his bags when he slipped on the ice and fell on his butt trying to gain his balance and Head Coach Steve Prohm’s funniest memory happened while they were in the state of the Last Frontier.
“(Team manager) Terrence (Miles) got a cramp playing the Amazing Race in Toronto and the team couldn’t finish the race because he got a cramp and the whole team had to stop and wait on him,” Prohm said. “I don’t know the whole story because I wasn’t in the whole game, but that was hysterical.”
Whether it’s hiding someone’s phone, sending text messages from a temporarily abandoned phone or just giving each other a hard time on Twitter, the team enjoys hanging out with each other, especially on the Playstation 3 gaming system Prohm set up for them in the locker room.
However, not everything is about pranks. Poole said one of the funniest moments happened when he, Aska and Canaan went fishing at junior guard Jordan Burge’s backyard pond. Burge’s dad brought out a canoe with a hole in the bottom and the three athletes had ventured out in the lake when Aska began rocking the boat and rowing the crew toward a fountain Poole said he was trying to avoid. All of them got wet in the fountain before making their way back to land.
“While we’re going back we get (the canoe) stuck where the mud is so we can’t get out,” Poole said. “I get out first and Isaiah was about to get out so I grab his hand but Ivan is so scared, he didn’t want to be the last one in there, so while I’m grabbing Isaiah, Ivan tries to grab Isaiah’s shirt and while he tries to grab his shirt the boat nudges off so it’s not stuck anymore and it starts floating out and you see Isaiah and Ivan both fall in the water.”
The players enjoy pranking each other but never miss an opportunity to take a jab at their beloved head coach, especially Poole, who said Prohm’s dancing and rhythm were not up to par.
“I don’t even know what he’s talking about,” the 37-year-old coach said with a laugh. “That’s what I’m talking about, he probably just made that up. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Prohm and other members of the coaching staff aren’t afraid to lighten things up, including Assistant Coach William Small who, after the Racers’ loss to Tennessee State, welcomed team members into the locker room the next week with a photo of their celebrity look-a-like inside each of their lockers. A few of their doppelgangers included junior forward Ed Daniel as Snoop Dog, Aska as Omar Epps, freshman guard Zay Jackson as Wesley Snipes and Mushatt as 50Cent.
“The other thing they do, they’ve got suntan lotion and they put it in everybody’s locker,” Prohm said about the team. “Whoever had the worst practice they put the suntan lotion in (their locker) like you were at the beach today and took a vacation today. They have two bottles and the players put it in Coach Small’s locker because he didn’t say anything that day at practice and Coach Small will take it and put it in their locker.”
The freedom Prohm gives the players on the hardwood as well as the environment he has established in his time as head coach has created a bond between players and intensified his relationship with them.
“Sometimes I don’t be seeing Coach as our head coach, although he is,” Aska said. “I just see him as one of our big brothers and he always has fun. We have serious moments but he’s not always serious. He’s always smiling, he interacts with us a lot and I think that’s the reason why we’re successful. Man, he’s a good coach.”
The team’s chemistry off the court has translated to the floor during games, as the Racers average three assists more than its opponents a statistic led by Canaan with 110 on the season, followed by Daniel with 90.
“This team is unselfish, they don’t have egos,” Prohm said. “When your best players don’t have egos it’s hard for anyone else to have egos and they don’t. Isaiah could shoot 15 or 18 shots a game if he wanted to, (he could) be a ball hog, be a turd, but he’s not. He shoots eight or 10 times a game, which is good because he can do that and get 20 points and leads in assists.”
The example of good character and unselfish play stems from the respect the team has for Prohm who happens to be the main root of fun.
“I tell them all the time, I write it on the board and tell them before the game, ‘have fun,’ that’s why we play,” Prohm said. “I told them against Southern Miss when we went into double overtime, ‘man this is fun isn’t it?’ It’s why we play. We’re 28-1, I hope they’re having fun.”