Two Collier County coaches are going home for the holidays, and they're taking their teams with them.
Lely coach Ryan Bowen and St. John Neumann coach John Wholihan head to their hometowns in New York shortly after Christmas, where their boys basketball teams will play a series of games.
The Trojans play in a tournament in Elmira, about 25 minutes from where Bowen grew up in the small town of Spencer. Neumann will play three games on Staten Island, where Wholihan is from and worked as a firefighter before moving to Naples 10 years ago.
"It's something I've been wanting to do for a while," Wholihan said. "I've been the head coach for four years now, so it's about time we got up there."
The Celtics girls will join the boys on their trip to New York City. Each team will play three games the first week of January. They'll take a train from Fort Lauderdale to New York on Dec. 31 and fly home Jan. 6.
Both Neumann squads play Jan. 3 at Petrides High School, where Wholihan started the basketball program. The boys then play twice on Jan. 5 — at Monsignor Farrell, their coach's former high school, and at St. Peter's Boys School.
The girls also play two games Jan. 5. The Celtics play at St. John Villa Academy at 11 a.m., then face St. Joseph Hill Academy at 7 p.m.
"We do it all the time in summer basketball," Neumann girls coach Shannon McFee said about playing two games in one day. "It allows us to have one extra day in the city without a game."
Lely plays in the eight-team Josh Palmer Fund tournament, part of the Coaches vs. Cancer organization that raises money to fight the disease. The event is at Elmira Southside High School from Thursday through Saturday. The Trojans fly to New York on Wednesday and return to Naples on Sunday.
Bowen plans to show his team around his hometown. His parents own a restaurant, where the Trojans will eat, in Spencer. Lely also will practice at Spencer-Van Etten High School, where Bowen played and was coached by former Community School boys coach and athletic director Bill Carufe.The Trojans and Celtics plan to do plenty of sightseeing on their trips. While Neumann players will visit Manhattan, Lely will visit Mark Twain's former home and museum in Elmira as well as see some of the natural falls of New York's Southern Tier.
"Kids down here view Fort Myers as a destination," Bowen said. "I'd say eight of our 12 kids have never seen snow. Most have not been on an airplane. It's a cool experience for them. They play very good basketball in New York. I want the kids to see that and see a different part of the country."
Lely and Neumann have done extensive fundraising to pay for the trips. The Trojans washed cars and sold coupon books, while Neumann sold team posters with advertisements to raise money. McFee said the Celtics made several sacrifices, like forgoing new uniforms, to save money for the trip.
"We're looking forward to going up into the cold weather and being in New York City," McFee said. "I always emphasize trying to enjoy the season as much as possible. This is just one more way to do so."