Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
When Durango High basketball coach Deshawn Henry received an invitation for his team to open the season at a tournament in Bermuda, he didn't hesitate giving organizers a response.
"Of course we weren't going to pass on this opportunity," Henry said.
The trip will be more than about basketball. It also will be educational.
The players can earn one-half a school credit for writing a three-page report documenting the trip. About 640 miles west of North Carolina, Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Trailblazers' traveling party of 13 players, four coaches and a few other officials will arrive in Bermuda on Wednesday. They will gather information for their report Thursday and play a pair of games Friday and Saturday in the Thanksgiving Basketball Classic hosted by the Bermuda Basketball Association.
"It's an amazing opportunity, something that is a once in-a-lifetime experience," senior guard Greg Gentry said.
A team from Bermuda has participated in Durango's tournament the last few seasons. The team had been working on organizing its own tournament for years, with coaches promising Durango a spot in the field if the event became a reality.
"They finally got it together. It will really a no-brainer decision for us," Henry said.
The program raised about $13,000 for the trip, hosting a variety of fundraisers — such as selling T-shirts at football games and hosting a summer camp for children — to make the cost minimal for the players, Henry said.
Freshman guard Paris Estrada — arguably the top ninth-grader in Las Vegas — will make his debut in the tournament. The trip also will be his first time traveling on an airplane.
The 5-foot-11 Estrada, who led Durango's soccer team in goals this fall, is receiving significant interest from basketball colleges, including UNLV. Henry says Estrada's soccer experience has been beneficial on the hardwood.
"Truth be told, he might be a better soccer player," Henry said. "That pass-first mentality he has from soccer really carries over to basketball. There is a lot of hype surrounding that kid. And, I can tell you, he's the real deal."
Durango's backcourt will be its strength this year with Gentry — a player Henry feels will wind up being a Division I player — leading the way. Estrada and sophomore Trevonn Wells also are guards, giving the Trailblazers a dynamic backcourt.
"(The trip) will help us bond as a team," Wells said. "It's going to help our chemistry on the court if we are cool with each other off (it)."