Aug. 31, 2007
A Recap of the American Women's Basketball Team in Australia
A Recap of the Lafayette Men's Basketball Team in Italy
By Kerry B. Kenny, Media and External Relations Assistant
For many Patriot League students, the chance to study abroad for a semester is one of the benefits of attending one of the League's institutions. For the basketball student-athletes, however, this opportunity is very limited, and almost downright impossible due to the intense demands of a schedule that stretches across the fall, winter, and spring portions of the academic schedule. Thanks to an NCAA bylaw, though, the Patriot League and all NCAA student-athletes have the chance to travel abroad to experience a different location and culture. NCAA bylaw 220.127.116.11 allows member institutions to go on a foreign tour under the once-in-four-years limitation, potentially giving a student-athlete the chance to travel abroad during his/her time on campus if the athletic program so chooses. This past summer, three Patriot League basketball teams decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and showcased their skills in a different part of the world. The Lafayette men, the defending Patriot League Men's Basketball Tournament champion Holy Cross, and the American women each had their passports stamped in foreign countries over the past four months. The three teams played a total of 12 games across four countries, and two continents.
The benefits of partaking in a foreign tour experience are innumerable. A team that decides to go abroad is given 10 days to practice before the trip, which as anyone close to the sport will tell you, is a valuable asset to have.
The Lafayette Leopards, under Head Coach Fran O'Hanlon, were the first Patriot League team to take the leap across the pond this past May. The Leopards embarked on a 10-day trip to Italy, where they would play a four-game schedule. After flying into Milan on the first day, stops included the cities of Verona, Venice, San Mario, and finally, Rome. Lafayette finished the trip with an undefeated mark against the four Italian teams: Robur Saronno Vertical Vision, the Marghera Giants basketball club, the San Marino national team, and finally, the College Italia Aernautica Militaire. In the final game, against College Italia Aernautica Militaire, Lafayette eclipsed the 100-point mark, with a 104-63 victory. Solid contributions were turned in on the trip by senior Bilal Abdullah, junior Andrew Brown, sophomore transfer Jeff Kari, and sophomore Marek Koltun. Senior guard Paul Cummins, who hails from Ireland, felt right at home playing in the European style, as he reached double figures in each of the four games. The trip was also a chance for senior co-captain Matt Betley to get some valuable game and practice time as he continued the rehabilitation of his ankle. Betley, who had off-season ankle surgery immediately following the Patriot League Tournament in March, played in the final two games of the trip for the `Pards.
For O'Hanlon and the Leopards, the trip was a success, both on and off the court.
"The trip was a tremendous educational opportunity for our team," said O'Hanlon. "We had a chance to visit both historic and exciting places. Also, we had success to build on and I believe we had an opportunity to bond as a team. All in all it was a very successful trip culturally, as well as athletically."
Led by 2007 Patriot League Coach of the Year Ralph Willard, the Holy Cross men's basketball team took their skills to two European locales in August, first stopping in the Netherlands. The first three games of the trip were played against the national teams of Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands. The Crusaders fell to the Swiss national team and NBA player Thabo Sefolosha on the first night, and dropped another close game to the Norwegians the following day. In their third game in as many days, the Crusaders defeated the national team of the Netherlands and their NBA star, Francisco Elson, who is a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Following the three games in the Netherlands, Holy Cross hopped on a plane to Spain, where they would compete in the final two games of their trip. The Crusaders split their games in Spain, defeating Sabadell and losing to L'Hospitalet. The Crusaders went up against a familiar foe in the final game, as three-time Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year Chris McNaughton was a member of L'Hospitalet. Senior Tim Clifford, junior Colin Cunningham, sophomore Eric Meister, and junior Lawrence Dixon all played well for the Crusaders on the trip. Dixon, who was rehabbing his second knee surgery, was able to gain some valuable game experience that he missed this past season. Holy Cross junior guard Pat Doherty scored 16 points in the first game for the Crusaders, but did not play again until the final game due to back problems.
According to Willard, the trip was a chance for his team to grow and learn about themselves.
"The opportunity to play against the national teams of Norway and Sweden and the Junior team of the Netherlands, as well as the two teams in Spain gave us the chance to really assess our strengths and weaknesses as we head into a new season," said Willard.
The final Patriot League team to head overseas was the American women's basketball team, led by Head Coach Melissa McFerrin. The Eagles set out for a trip to Australia, with stops in both Melbourne and Sydney during the month of August. The schedule called for three games to be played, against Frankston, the ITC Squad, and Bendigo. The Eagles opened up with victories in their first two contests, but fell to Bendigo in the final game. The Eagles also had a chance to explore many of the cultural and physical features that the beautiful Australian landscape had to offer. Senior Liz Hayes, junior Talicia Jackson, and freshmen Liz Leer and Ashley Yencho all provided quality contributions for American. Hayes, the 2007 Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year, scored in double figures in all three games.
As McFerrin sees it, the trip was something that everyone involved will remember for a long time.
"We have been anticipating our international tour for over two years, and Australia did not disappoint! It was, without question, the experience of a lifetime," said McFerrin. "It was genuinely a cultural, educational and basketball learning experience. We also gained some insight and measured growth that mere words cannot fully describe; the benefits of ten days of practice, the confidence and work habits of our upperclassmen, the talents of our freshmen and the team bonding and cohesiveness that results from spending quality time with one another. We have had many positive experiences in the past few months and feel we are building toward a successful 2007-08!"