BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The Xavier players were in the dark - literally - for their practice here Wednesday.
The Musketeers arrived at a U.S. Naval base gym only to find that there was a power outage at 7 a.m. and electricity had not been restored. The base was without power for 24 days after being struck by Hurricane Georges two months ago, and still has problems occasionally.
"It felt funny," sophomore Maurice McAfee said. "It felt like we were in a dungeon. It was a different experience."
Not only was the gym dark, but there were water spots in several places on the court, forcing practice to take place at one end of the floor.
When the sun was brightest, some light seeped in through the heavy window coverings.
"You deal with it," XU coach Skip Prosser said. "It's not going to be like our own gym back home, and you've got to roll with the punches. It's nobody's fault.
"I thought the kids handled it well, We pretty much accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished."
Said freshman Lloyd Price: "We had the mind-set that we were going to practice hard anyway. Nobody was really complaining." Xavier got to shoot around later at the American University of Puerto Rico gym, site of the Puerto Rico Shootout.
Hurricane damage evident
Hurricane Georges devastated areas of Puerto Rico, which President Clinton declared a disaster area after more than 700,000 people on the island lost power and water. Billions of dollars in property damage is evident around the area of Xavier's hotel.
The Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino, where several of the teams are staying, is still undergoing repairs from the hurricane. Windows were blown out on one side of the hotel. Carpeting is still being replaced, and rooms are being painted. The hotel was closed for a month.
On the same street, several buildings sit in ruin, closed for good. Others show severe exterior damage, including destroyed signs.
With 3.56 million people on the island, you can expect some slow traffic. In fact, Kentucky was on its way to practice Tuesday when it got stuck in traffic for so long, the team decided to turn around and return to its hotel without working out.
XU senior Lenny Brown is looking forward to playing Pittsburgh today and facing an old teammate, Kellii Taylor. The two were together for a year at Maine Central Institute and should get reacquainted rather quickly as the starting shooting guards.
Taylor, who was third in the nation in steals two years ago, missed most of last season with a foot injury and still has a screw in his foot. He is averaging nine points this season.
"I know we're both going to get after it," Brown said. "It's going to be fun."
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