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SUMMER JOURNAL: Caldwell, Johnson reflect on first few days in Dominican Republic

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A hot, 3-0 start to their summer trip to the Dominican Republic has certainly given the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team something to get excited about. The team has done much more than play basketball since its arrival on Tuesday and we checked in with a couple of players to see just how the trip was playing out.

#32 Dwan Caldwell – Senior – Center

Last night was great for us. Our team did a lot of bonding, giving back to the youth, and having plenty of laughs and jokes. These first three days have personally taught me a lot about other countries outside the United States. It's given me a good chance to get to know my teammates on a personal level. Not having a TV, radio, and other forms of entertainment has been tough on everyone. It has hit me a lot harder than others because I am a father, and I can't talk to my children everyday, along with my parents, siblings, friends, and my girlfriend.

When your teammates feel your pain and are experiencing the same things as you, it makes it all worthwhile and brings you closer to each other. God does things in mysterious ways. This trip was designed to bring us closer, humble us, help us understand different parts of the world and learn that it's better to give and not take all the time.

We went to a place here called the Hole. So many children flocked to the bus when they saw us pulling up, I felt like I really meant something to them. Like for that one moment any bad things they were experiencing in life were over. I felt like a role model. There was one kid named Yal Faye who stayed with me the whole tour of the Hole. It humbled me so much because all I could think about is what if this was my son. In a way he took the place of my son and just for the time being, he made me feel like a father again. I will never forget that kid. He made my day.

We fed him, along with some other youth from the community and were given a great message by Pastor Felix, the minister of the community. I know he is a man of God. He has a great heart and compassion for other people. He puts people before himself and lives for the Lord.

It's funny because whenever our team goes to a place with Wi-FI, it's like we hit the lottery for a billion dollars or won the NCAA tournament. Last Night was a practical joke night. We stayed up until about 1:30 am quoting movies and playing fun little pranks on teammates as they slept.

I feel we have grown as a team, players, and men. Individually this trip has made me a better father, son, man and role model. It's gotten me back in touch with my spiritual side. Glory to God and I thank him for giving my teammates and I a chance to become better in all aspects of life.

In closing, I must say value the impact you can have on this world because I feel God wouldn't keep waking us up if he felt we couldn't make a difference or a change for the better to make this world a better and safer place. Taking is so easy, but giving back is from the heart. God gave us the power of choice, so at the end of the day it's up to us to do what's right. He only shows us the right way, which is his way. God bless you all and keep God first in your life because he makes everything happen.

#1 Jordan Johnson – Senior – Guard

The first day on the trip with the team was already memories in the making. We bonded together in so many ways, such as teaching each other how to play card games like Spades and Gin Rummy.

The flight to Miami was cool with everyone on the team taking selfies with each other on the plane. In the Miami International Airport there was an imitation of the Miami Heat championship trophy that I loved. I posted a picture of it on Facebook and people back home thought is was real.

I’ve loved the scenery in the Dominican Republic. It reminds me of where I was born in Savannah, Ga. Driving in the Dominican Republic is like being in the Indy 500. It's so fast paced.

As soon we got settled in the dorms they fed us and the fruit was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. It was so fresh. Before we went to sleep, everybody was up about an hour laughing and joking about the day. The first day in the Dominican was a success.

The Golden Eagles will remain in the Dominican Republic until Tuesday, Aug. 19. Tech still has a few games left on its schedule and will look to keep its undefeated record clean over the remainder of the trip.