Men's Basketball Team Has Successful Trip To Europe

Sept. 7, 2007

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The men's basketball team has just returned from a 10 day trip to Europe. The trip, which was originally planned for eight or nine nights, was expanded when the team received an invitation from the Dutch Basketball Organization to participate in a three-day tournament against the national teams of Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands.

The first two days in Amsterdam were spent recovering from jetlag and seeing the sights in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a city of bikes and canals, so the team took a bike tour as well as a canal tour. To get ready for the tournament, the team also had a practice on Wednesday. On Thursday, the team relocated from Amsterdam to Alkmaar, the site of the tournament. Alkmaar is a small town approximately 25 miles north of Amsterdam.

The first game of this tournament was at 5:00 p.m. local time on Thursday against the Swiss national team featuring Chicago Bulls guard Thabo Sefolosha. This was the first competitive game played by the team since the NCAA Tournament contest against Southern Illinois. The team was clearly rusty and it was reflected in the 31 turnovers. Switzerland pulled the game out in the last minute on a Sefolosha steal in the Holy Cross backcourt which led to a lay up. A last second desperation shot by Holy Cross rimmed out and Switzerland won 53-51.

Friday brought a morning shoot-around for the team followed by local sightseeing. Game two commenced at 5:00 p.m. against the national team of Norway. Pat Doherty had aggravated a disk problem in the game against Switzerland and was unable to play. In what would become a pattern, Holy Cross got into early foul trouble and fell behind in the first half. A late rally by the Crusaders was not enough and they ultimately fell to Norway 75-69. This was a team we should have beaten.

Saturday was the last day in Holland. The team spent the day relaxing and exploring the local city of Alkmaar. At 4:00 p.m. that day Holy Cross tipped off against the national team of the Netherlands. The Netherlands had an important qualifying game the next day against Belarus and opted to rest their more experienced players, going with a younger team. Most of the national team players are in their mid to late twenties and this younger team featured players similar in age to our own students. While this team was less experienced, they were perhaps more athletic than the older players with the exception of two players, who did not play, including Francisco Elson of the San Antonio Spurs. Once again, Holy Cross fell behind early. However, the Crusaders took the lead in the third quarter, then held off a Dutch comeback to post a 65-58 win. Leaving the Netherlands on a good note, Holy Cross bussed to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for a 10:00 p.m. flight to Barcelona. At 1:00 a.m. the team had landed in Barcelona and made it to a hotel just outside of town.

Sunday was overcast and raining sporadically, allowing Holy Cross to ironically experience Dutch weather in Spain. Holy Cross took a brief tour of the city stopping at La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. After an "all you can eat" buffet lunch in Barcelona, the team left for a four-hour bus ride to Andorra. Andorra is a tiny Principality sandwiched between Spain and France. Charlemagne gave this tiny country its independence in 784 and Napoleon allowed Andorra to keep it's autonomy. The Principality is now ruled by two co-princes, the President of France and an Archbishop in Spain. The villages of Andorra are literally carved out of small valleys in the Pyrenees mountains. The views are spectacular. The team traveled to Andorra to play Club Sabadell, a Division III professional team in Spain which takes a brief training camp every year in Andorra.

On Monday, after breakfast, the team had a brief workout at a local gymnasium. Although it was only three miles away, given the traffic and one-way roads which are extremely narrow and not "bus-friendly", it took an average of 45 minutes each way to go to practice and back. That evening Holy Cross was scheduled to play Club Sabadell at 6:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the gym at 5:10, the team was informed that they could not get onto the gym floor until 6:00 due to an indoor soccer practice, and further the game would be delayed until 6:45. Fortunately, at 6:43 the two officials arrived. There was no official scorekeeper, merely a scoreboard operator. Accordingly no track was kept of points or fouls. For the first time in this trip, Holy Cross was not hampered by foul trouble. In a game in which Sabadell led most of the way, Holy Cross owned the fourth quarter and polished off a 69-66 victory.

On Tuesday, August 21st, the team departed Andorra in the late morning for Barcelona. En route, the group stopped at Montserrat, about one hour north of Barcelona. Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery located atop one of the highest peaks in Catalunya. Over 1,000 years old, the site figured prominently in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. The views from the top of this mountain were even more staggering that those in Andorra. After an afternoon at Montserrat, the team returned to Barcelona.

Wednesday was a scheduled day off with a trip planned to a popular beach 20 miles south of Barcelona in the town of Sitges. Unfortunately, the team awoke to rain and the beach trip was postponed. The group split up with several opting to stroll the famous part of Barcelona known as La Rambla. Others spent the afternoon at a local shopping mall while a few wise men chose to tour Camp Nou, the museum and stadium of FC Barcelona, one of the most famous soccer teams in the world. Rumor has it that Lawrence Dixon and Victor Vaval met Ronaldhino.

On Thursday the team rose early and took advantage of the beautiful weather by taking the train to Sitges. The day was spent sightseeing and swimming in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. As it was a game day, the visit was shortened and by 3:00 p.m. the team was on the train returning to Barcelona for the final game of the trip vs. Club Basketball L'Hospitalet. L'Hospitalet is a suburb of Barcelona and a 25 minute bus ride from the team hotel.

During the early warm-ups after arriving, seniors Tim Clifford and Kyle Cruze were the first players on the floor. The opposing players were arriving individually and heading towards the team's locker room. Suddenly the outside door opened and a very familiar face strode in - Chris McNaughton of Bucknell, who had recently signed to play for L'Hospitalet. The game tipped off at 8:00 p.m. L'Hospitalet is a strong team comprised of seasoned veterans and rookies like McNaughton. It was close in the early going with Holy Cross leading at 10-9 about five minutes into the game. At that point, L'Hospitalet exploded hitting four three-pointers, three of them by Tariq Johnson, formerly of Division I Campbell University, who had played four years professionally in England before coming to Spain. After L'Hospitalet pulled away, Holy Cross was not able to narrow the gap being outscored in every quarter as L'Hospitalet posted a 92-61 victory.

Friday morning was an early one as the group met a 7:15 bus departure for the airport boarding an Air France flight to Boston through Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris. All in all, it was a tremendous 10-day trip for the team. From a basketball perspective, it was an invaluable experience. The team practiced for nine days before leaving and then had the opportunity to play five games against strong European competition. All 12 players logged minutes and the trip should provide a productive running start to the season. Culturally, it was a once in a lifetime experience for the team members. They had the opportunity to visit three different countries and experience life in distinctly different cultures. Many of students have stated that they view it as a "once in a lifetime" experience.

This trip was funded entirely by generous gifts from Alumni, parents and friends of the program. The men's basketball program and the Department of Athletics would like to thank the following individuals without whose generosity, this trip would not have been possible: Dom Dinardo, Duke Doherty, John Doran, Rich Flaherty, Norbert Knapp, Pat McWeeney, Dan Nugent, John Nugent, Joe Petri, Bill Plunkett, Jim Burke, Damien and Dawn Savoie and last, but not least, the "Bear Stearns 6" - Fred Barney, Dan Atchinson, Ryan Kenny, Jim Marrone, Scott McCoy and Peter Urbanczyk.