by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
Basketball players try to avoid traveling on the court, but one University of North Florida student athlete did a lot of the other kind last week.
Forward Kyle Groothuis, 22, is one of two seniors on the 2010-11 Osprey men’s basketball team and is the treasurer for the Transportation and Logistics Society of the Coggin College of Business’s Transportation and Logistics Flagship Program.
On Wednesday, he suited up to participate in the “River City Rumble,” a developing crosstown rivalry between UNF and Jacksonville University.
“It was one of our biggest games of the year and going to overtime just made it that much more intense,” said Groothuis.
Nearly 3,500 people saw UNF’s three-game winning streak come to an end when JU converted a pair of free throws to win the game.
The transportation and logistics major didn’t have too much time to think about the loss, however.
He was scheduled to be on a plane to Denver at 5:30 a.m. Thursday to meet with his other teammates from the Transportation and Logistics Society.
The UNF logistics team traveled to the Mile High City to defend its national title at the Operation Stimulus Case Competition, a student competition that is part of the 30th Annual Denver Transportation Forum.
This year’s competition drew 16 teams from across the United States and Canada who were charged with presenting a solution to a transportation, logistics and supply chain case study.
“There were some eyes on us this year being the defending champions,” said Groothuis. “Last year, people didn’t really know about us and we ended up winning the competition.”
This year’s competition involved students choosing a new supplier for parts to an electronic router from a fictitious company. Another part of the problem was figuring out how to get the routers to new global markets.
The teams had about two weeks to develop their solutions, but they were tested with “twists” when they arrived at the competition during both the preliminary and final rounds of competitions.
One of the twists involved solving the problem of e-waste and developing a way to ensure the product wouldn’t be littering the markets they intended to serve.
“We pulled knowledge from every class we’ve taken at UNF,” said Groothuis.
Some of the competition had to do with the luck of the draw.
The 16 teams were split into four rooms and the winner in each room moved on to the finals. The UNF team finished second in its room to Ohio State, which won the competition in 2009 and 2007.
“We didn’t find out we finished second until late Friday, so we had to send members of the team to three lectures in the morning because the twist for the final would come from material covered in the lectures,” said Groothuis.
Though the UNF team didn’t move to the finals, Groothuis believed it was well worth the trip.
“It was a great experience for all of us,” said Groothuis. “We were able to listen to innovators of the industry.”
Instead of taking the time to unwind and join his teammates on the ski slopes near Denver, Groothuis was back on a plane Saturday morning to rejoin his basketball teammates for an Atlantic Sun Conference game against Campbell University at UNF.
The senior was on a 6:30 a.m. return flight home. He didn’t touch down in Jacksonville until 3 p.m. due to mechanical delays with a connecting flight, but was able to grab a bite to eat and make it to the UNF Arena by 5:30 p.m. for a 7:30 tip.
Luckily, the women’s team went into overtime and delayed the start of the men’s game.
“Coming back to play basketball was a definite refocus,” said Groothuis. “We go back over the scouting report to see what I have to do to help out against their big guys and get with the coaches for any info or tips to help me help the team.”
The Ospreys came up short against Campbell 76-66 and Groothuis didn’t play, but regardless of his minutes, the scholarship athlete is grateful to the school for the opportunities it provides.
“I don’t think I would have the time-management skills that I have if I was a regular student, sitting around playing video games,” said Groothuis.
“Being a member of the team has taught me to push myself to be the best that I can be. As a student, I credit (Transportation and Logistics Program Associate Director) Lynn Brown with pushing me to be the best,” he said.
His best may have been developed somewhere else if he decided to transfer when a new coaching staff arrived at UNF during his sophomore year, but he decided to stay with the Ospreys and head coach Matthew Driscoll was pleased with his decision.
“A coaching change is a tough thing to go through. You have a different set of expectations,” said Driscoll. “But Kyle never balked when we set those expectations and he always wanted to know more. He’s a role model on this team because he always plays hard and that converts to how supportive he is to other players when he is on the bench.”
“That is why he is going to be special in the world outside of basketball,” said Driscoll.