Baker Wildcats get French look at American game
It really was a whole new ballgame.
The Baker University women's basketball team ventured to France in late December to compete and do a little sightseeing.
"I believe that you should use basketball to experience the world," said Doug Nelson, Baker women's basketball coach.
The student-athletes learned about French culture, picked up a few new words, experienced a different way of life and played with new game rules on the court.
"The team did a great job playing, but the thing that I am most proud of is that by the end of the first day in Paris a group of kids from the Midwest were negotiating their way around one of the most hectic cities in the world," Nelson said.
Baker lost 86-61 against the Ouistreham basketball team on Jan. 3 and lost 79-53 against the Versailles basketball team on Jan. 4.
"The second team we played had played a nationally ranked NCAA Division I team in the United States and beat them by 50-some points, but they only beat us by 26," said junior forward Ashley Ranallo, a biology major from Junction City.
The teams in France aren't institutional; they're club teams, which means anyone, from ages 20 to 40 can play. Nelson said it's common to have older, more experienced players playing alongside the younger ones.
The Wildcats found adjusting to the French rules difficult and it seemed like they were enforced randomly, Nelson said.
"The rules seemed to differ from the first game to the second game," he said.
According to Ranallo, the differences between French and American rules varied from the way the court was arranged to new rules and regulations the girls had to adjust to.
"The refs didn't speak a lick of English. So, that made learning the rules and regulations very difficult," Ranallo said. "We never did figure out when we were allowed to call time-outs or when we could make substitutions."
In France, the lane was wider, and got larger the further you got from the free-throw line. This change in the court arrangement caused Baker's team to get more three-second violations because they needed to move further than in the United States to get out of the lane, Ranallo said. The 3-point line was also back about six inches.
One of the new rules the team had to learn concerned a jump ball. In France, when two players are fighting over the ball those two players re-jump it right there. American rules give teams alternate possessions.
"I will never ever forget little Gunner (Candace Fortney, a 5-4 senior guard in physical education from El Dorado Springs, Mo.) jumping for the ball against a girl who was at least 6-3," Ranallo said. "Gunner was just jumping and jumping and there was no way she was going to get that ball."
During the second game, the Cats were surprised to find out the shot clock was written on the wall in chalk.
Nelson said after Baker received a shot clock violation a player from the opposing team pointed out the "French shot clock."
The Wildcats did more than just play basketball. They went sightseeing and rang in the New Year on one of Paris' most famed streets, the Champs d'Elysees.
"This trip gave the team more than a chance to play ball during break," Nelson said. "It gave the team a chance to bond and to create memories as a team."