UCA pair gets back to beach

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BROOKS KUBENA

The Los An­ge­les sun wel­comed the team­mates home.

Jared Chatham and Matthew Mon­de­sir woke early Tues­day morn­ing with the rest of the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas men’s bas­ket­ball team, fresh off its mid­night flight from Arkansas.

They had a day to spend be­fore tonight’s game at UCLA, and the team went to Man­hat­tan Beach so some play­ers could see the Pa­cific Ocean for the first time.

Chatham and Mon­de­sir, who both played at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Prep (Calif.), had known the waters all their life.

“We used to come here to work out and run the sand dunes,” said Chatham, a 6-8, 185-pound red­shirt fresh­man for­ward.

“Yeah,” added Mon­de­sir, a 6-5, 200-pound fresh­man guard. “Like Rocky III.”

Mon­de­sir is orig­i­nally from In­gle­wood, just eight miles north of Man­hat­tan Beach, and Chatham grew up in the Cren­shaw District, five miles far­ther north and just south­east of UCLA’s cam­pus.

The team­mates vis­ited their fam­i­lies later that night, and they shared their ex­cite­ment in fi­nally play­ing in his­toric Ed­win W. Pauley Pav­il­ion.

“UCLA is a col­lege bas­ket­ball Mecca,” Mon­de­sir said. “It feels good to play here. All the work we put in through the years, see­ing the strug­gle we’ve both gone through, one step closer to our goals. We’ve

ac­com­plished those goals, and we get to show our fam­i­lies what we’re do­ing away in col­lege.”

Chatham and Mon­de­sir have com­bined for 17 points and 11 re­bounds in UCA’s first two games, a 107-66 loss at Bay­lor and a 99-51 vic­tory over the Univer­sity of the Ozarks.

Fourth-year Coach Russ Pen­nell said his team is play­ing more to its iden­tity, af­ter they tried too hard to score in the blowout loss and vic­tory.

“I think that’s what will give us a chance,” he said. “I

be­lieve up­sets come not from su­per­nat­u­ral strength, but a team do­ing what it does best. And as the game wears on, you hang on. It’s not mak­ing 25 three-point­ers … we’re not re­ally ca­pa­ble of that. This is the way you’ll even­tu­ally win a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship, when you can play for what­ever stan­dard you have for your team.”

Pen­nell and his play­ers dis­cussed an­other stan­dard Tues­day morn­ing over break­fast in the ho­tel.

Sopho­more for­ward Aaron

Wei­de­naar looked up at the tele­vi­sion and saw that the three UCLA play­ers who had been de­tained in China for al­legedly shoplift­ing in Hangzhou were sched­uled to re­turn to Los An­ge­les that af­ter­noon.

“You think they’ll play to­mor­row night?” Pen­nell re­called Wei­de­naar ask­ing.

“Oh, no,” Pen­nell said. “No, I don’t think so.”

“What would you do?” Wei­de­naar asked. “Would you sus­pend them?”

“I can’t tell you that right now,” Pen­nell said. “I don’t

know the ins and outs of that. Every­one’s go­ing to watch and see what they’re go­ing to do. Their coach is in a no-win sit­u­a­tion. Some peo­ple will think he didn’t sus­pend them long enough; some will think the sus­pen­sion is too long. When you make a de­ci­sion like that, you drag all of us into it.”

Pen­nell then pulled out his phone and scrolled through a quick search of na­tion­wide sus­pen­sions of col­le­giate ath­letes and read the head­lines aloud.

“I’m thank­ful I’m not read­ing

your names,” he said.

The team fin­ished its break­fast and left for the beach.

“It’s morals and ethics,” Pen­nell said later. “We’ve all been 18-19 years old. If some­thing comes out of your mind, you don’t re­ally think of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions about it. Ev­ery de­ci­sion you’re go­ing to make, you have to own up to it. … I just want to get my guys to be crit­i­cal thinkers. And when they make de­ci­sions, count the cost. That’s what coach­ing is.”

Chatham Mon­de­sir

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