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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State women's basketball team departed this afternoon for a Friday night game against San Francisco. Immediately after that, they'll board a plane and take off for Puerto Rico, where they will spend the next week playing basketball and giving back.

"This really is a special trip for us," said women's basketball head coach Bunky Harkleroad. "What was originally planned as a fun getaway trip to play basketball has turned into something so much more. We're going to have an opportunity to help and it is in large part thanks to this game that we all love."

The tournament, which was scheduled a year ago, includes seven teams and will take place at Colesio Ruben Zayas Montañez in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. The Hornets will face Miami (FL) on Monday, Dec. 18 and Northern Illinois on Weds, Dec. 20.

But for the team, this trip - which started as a chance to travel, play ball, and even relax a little - has taken on a new meaning. Maranne Johnson, one of three seniors on the team, realizes that this trip is really something unique.

"As a senior, this is my last chance to represent this team and Sacramento State and I can't imagine a better way to do that than on this trip," said Johnson.

"It's not every day a team or group gets to make a trip like this. I'm looking forward to bringing Sacramento State to Puerto Rico and to the people there and showing them what our team and school stand for."

The team is planning to meet with other student athletes from the University of Puerto Rico to help distribute goods to other students and community members of Humacao, a municipality on the southeast coast of Puerto.

It's not just the seniors who recognize the significance of the trip. Even newcomers like freshmen Dana DeGraffenreid and transfer Hannah Friend are aware of their position.

"Just being able to go to Puerto Rico and see life differently," explained DeGraffenreid, "that alone is meaningful. But to be able to help those in need and give back while also having the opportunity play basketball with my team, it's special. I'm just looking forward to a great experience."

It's not just an opportunity to play basketball in a new place and to help a community in need, it's also an opportunity to experience something outside of the day-to-day life for a student-athlete at Sacramento State.

"I am expecting to see things we wouldn't see everyday in Sacramento," added Friend. "It's a new place and we're going to have a chance to benefit those that have been less fortune during these last few months. This is an incredible opportunity provided to us by the game of basketball."

As easy as it might be to become overwhelmed by the meaning and significance of this trip, the Hornets know that they also have games to play and it's important to keep focused on their competition.

"I'm absolutely expecting to give each team we play a run for their money," added Friend. "We're still looking to come out of this tournament with two great wins."