Baker basketball team takes trip to Greece
While most Baker University students will be home for the holidays, the Baker University Wildcat cagers will bring in the new year in Athens, Greece, as part of a Mediterranean tour that will see the Cats play three games against international competition in Greece and Italy. A traveling party of 48 people composed of Baker hoopsters, BU students, family members, coaches and fans will make up the contingent that departed from KCI Friday.
The group will travel to Atlanta and then stop in New York before boarding a plane that will take them directly to Athens. While in Greece, the Cats will play two games and make time to see several cultural sites including the Acropolis, the Royal Palace, and the Olympic Stadium where the world's first modern Olympics were staged in 1896.
Also on the agenda in Greece is a cruise to the picturesque island of Hydra and a sailing adventure through the straits of Poros before the group stops on the island of Aegina for shopping and a look at the Temple of Afea Athena. Before departing Greece, a stop at Lake Marathon and ride along the shores of the Saronic Gulf to Cape Union and the temple of Poseidon will be featured. The panorama of seal and islands viewed from the temple area is said to be one of the most spectacular in Greece.
New Year's eve will be spent in Athens where the downtown square is said to be a mini-version of Times Square on this festive night with live music, dancing and dining. On New Year's Day, the group will leave Athens for Patras, a city on the coast, and board an overnight ferry which will take everyone to Ancona, Italy.
A motorcoach will take the group to Sorrento and the Bay of Naples where everyone will spend the night before journeying to Rome the next day. On the way to Rome, a lunch stopover in Pompeii, located at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius, will be a highlight of the trip. In Rome, the Cats will have a chance to see the major sites of the city including the coliseum.
According to Baker Basketball Coach Rick Weaver, plans for the trip began several months ago.
"With a large number of guys returning, we began discussing the trip quite a while back and everybody on the team was all in favor of the thing. Each player is paying a large chunk of his own expenses with the rest covered by money we have made from various fundraisers like the Super Scramble golf tournament and selling memberships in the Roundball Club," Weaver said. "We have a large number of parents that are going as well and some are taking the entire family.
"Besides all of the players' relatives, we've got quite a diverse group including several Baker students who are taking the trip as a Travel Interterm and Baldwin High School English teacher, Jeanne Scott, and her daughter Ally," he said. "We're even taking Junior Brecheisen and his much younger looking wife, Vera. I'm a little concerned about Junior though as all he has been asking about is the beaches and I think he thinks Greece is located just an hour or so east of New Jersey."
This will be the second overseas trip for a Baker men's basketball team as the 1989-90 squad spent two weeks in Germany, France, Holland, Belgium and England. All games are played under international rules and according to the BU coach, there are advantages and disadvantages to such a basketball excursion.
"Usually, the bigger schools make overseas trips in late summer where they will have a chance to recover physically and mentally. A long trip is really draining and it takes time to get back into the swing of things when you return," he said. "When we get back, we'll have a couple days and then head to play Central Methodist on the road. I'd guess that we're the only team in the world that will be in Athens, Rome and Fayette during a two week period.
"On the positive side, a trip like this is a once in a lifetime experience for most and basketball will take a backseat. We will not be practicing because we want to see and do as much as possible while we are there," he said. "When I see players from the 89-90 trip, they still have great memories of the experience and for most it was a high point of their college career at BU."
European teams are generally made up of older players in their late 20s and early 30s including some professionals and occasionally former American college cagers. International rules have a 30 second shot clock, a wider lane, and allow more physical play underneath the basket as well as more liberal goal-tending allowance.
"We basically know nothing about the opposition, facilities, officiating or game conditions. On the last trip, we played a couple pretty strong teams that would be competitive against major colleges in the United States and a couple teams that were small college level. We ran into one group that went 7'1, 6'10 and 6'10 across the frontline and they were all physical and mobile. I'm hoping we don't have to bring Pedro Dos Santos back in a pretzel box and occasionally European ball gets pretty physical," said Weaver.
All games played overseas must be sanctioned by the ABAUSA, the international sports governing body that approves international competition. In addition, NAIA and Heart of America Conference approval was required before games could be scheduled. International Sports Exchange, located in Plainfield, Indiana, has lined up the entire trip including air travel, lodging, tours and ground transportation.
"We've used ISE before and they did a good job. You just tell them where you want to go, when you want to go, how many games you want to play and how many people you are taking. They take care of the rest including securing game sanction approval, lining up the guides and even making reservations for a few dinners"" said Weaver.
Weaver point out that often the most "remembered" moments of such a trip are the ones that aren't on the itinerary.
"Even though we hit the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Windsor Castle and the tourist stuff last time, the things I remember the most from the last trip weren't on the schedule. One of our players, Scott Siegman, proposed to his girlfriend at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Trailing Denny Darting while he had us lost in the Paris subway system was certainly memorable and watching Junior Brecheisen try to figure out how to eat snails with a pocketknife are things that stay with you for life. I'm sure this year's group will have a bunch of lifelong memories as well. To say the guys are excited about the trip would be a major understatement," said Weaver.
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