What I Did For My Summer Vacation
Nov. 6, 2001
By Melissa Garvey
The trio, which will play an important part in the Flames' attack this season, spent their vacation honing their basketball skills and sharpening their life skills as members of collegiate all-star teams on different European tours.
Rhodes, a senior forward/center from Missouri City, Texas, played a rigorous six-game schedule in Italy for an all-star team made up of collegiate players from across the United States. She played in every game on the tour and finished the trip as the squad's leading rebounder. With the competition made up of professional Italian players, Rhodes gained valuable experience from the trip as it kept her in great shape and forced her to work on the parts of her game that she felt she was weak in.
"Playing in Italy over the summer helped me to work on my overall game," Rhodes stated. "It also taught me patience as I had to deal with some differences in the game, including some tough officiating"
Besides the much more lenient officials, Rhodes had to overcome rule adaptations like the v-shaped lane, an 8-second time limit to get across half court, and a 3-step allowance without dribbling the ball before traveling was called.
Rhodes' trip was not all basketball, though, as she did sneak in some time sightseeing and touring the country.
"The best thing I saw all summer was when we flew over the mountains on our way to Bologna," Rhodes said. "They were so beautiful, it was really unbelievable."
While Rhodes was touring the vineyards of Italy, her teammates Gilzene and Chambers were spreading the word of God while also playing basketball for Athletes in Action in Spain and the Czech Republic.
Gilzene joined the Athletes in Action program through UIC head coach Tim Eatman, who also got fellow junior Chambers involved.
"Coach Eatman felt that it would be a good thing for us because the Athletes in Action program is about basketball and campus ministry," Gilzene said. "He felt that it would be good for us to experience both of those aspects on the trip."
After training in Ohio for a week prior to the trip, Gilzene joined a team en route to Spain. It was not long after her arrival that she noticed the distinct differences between her new surroundings and the friendly confines of the UIC Pavilion.
"I was playing in a whole different country, with a whole different set of rules," Gilzene said. "The travel is so much different than ours, and you really have to be open to everything. The experience really made me mentally stronger.
Chambers, who played for a squad that was led by UIC head coach Tim Eatman, also felt a lot stronger after her summer experience in the Czech Republic.
"Physically, I gained strength in my ball handling and in being able to play strong in back to back games," Chambers said. "The play out there is very physical and the officials are very lenient so I became tougher.
"I also had to learn to deal with the fact that Americans do not get any calls from the officials," Chambers continued. "I had to learn to accept these kinds of things and move on."
While Chambers did get to tour the beautiful Czech countryside as her teammates did in Spain and Italy, her favorite part of the trip was not something captured on a postcard.
"The majority of the Czech Republic is atheist, and they see Christianity as almost a form of witchcraft," Chambers remembered. "After all of the games, we would sit down and have dinner with the other teams. We had translators and different girls from my team would stand up and give their testimonials.
"Then, we'd all walk around and talk to the Czech girls about our religion," Chambers continued. "At first, they all seemed a little shocked at what we had to say, but after a while they really got into it. It felt good to be able to minister to these girls and spread the word of Christianity."
Overall, Chambers, Gilzene and Rhodes all felt that their experiences in Europe this past summer will prove to be beneficial once basketball season rolls around this year at UIC.
Head Coach Tim Eatman agrees.
"I can already see an improved maturity in the way they talk and their body language," said Eatman. "They've grown up. More than just the games they played over there, it was the practices and the camaraderie of being with a different group of players and finding out they have a lot of the same problems you do on your team. We're no different and I think they got a glimpse of that."