Monday, October 19, 2009

Game 4 vs. Boncourt

Saturday was a great fall day for basketball. I know, fall is about football but hear me out on this one. I have been playing basketball for a long time now and I love fall and winter. A lot of people think I'm crazy when I say something like this but I associate fall and winter with basketball season. So, I love the start of fall. The start of fall in college brought Midnight Madness at Marquette and fall brings the start of professional basketball in Europe and a chance for me to make some money. Fall has been pretty good to me.

So, Saturday was a great day to play basketball in Switzerland. It was cold but not too cold. The leaves had started to change and SAM Massagno (my team) had our first real Swiss road game. Yes, we played Vacallo on the road but Boncourt was our first road game because Vacallo is 20 minutes down the road and Boncourt is a little farther.

A little geography on Switzerland is needed to understand this statement. Massagno is located in the south of Switzerland close to the border of Italy. Boncourt is located in northern Switzerland on the border of France. In fact it is so close to the border that we walked to the border of France from our bus so we could stretch our legs a little bit. In total, Boncourt is approximately 5 hours away.

This would be no problem if we had chartered a flight the night before and stayed in the Marriott the night before but this is Switzerland and not Marquette University. We left at 10 am to play the game at 5:30 pm. To add to our travel situation we took the tiniest bus that I have ever traveled on. The seats in the bus made airline seats look like lazy boys. So, imagine 20 grown men in a tiny bus for 5 hours getting ready to play a basketball game.

Also, Boncourt is one of the toughest places in Switzerland. Boncourt is a little town with nothing to do so on Saturdays the whole town comes out with their drums and air horns and makes a lot of noise in the gym. The team is also very well coached and they are tough. All of these factors led us to our first real road game.

Needless to say, we didn't respond very well. We came out the first quarter and played very sluggish. It was as if we did not have our legs. During warm ups I thought to myself that I might not have any legs this game, they just felt so heavy. At the end of the first quarter we were down 28-14. Definitely not a great start.

It didn't get much better from there either. We went on runs but whenever we were to cut the lead down, Boncourt hit a big shot or got a steal. At halftime our gracious hosts were up 46-27.

I could talk more about how the game went but I think my brain has blocked most of the details out of my head. I'm pretty happy about that too. My final stats for the game were 23 and 11. I had played pretty well but I wish we could have come out of the game with the win. I really want to win more games this year and play like we are capable of.

At the end of the game, Boncourt has a player of the game for both teams. The prize is usually from a sponsor of the team and is many times wine, chocolate or some other Swiss specialty. I received the award for this game. It was pretty interesting to say the least. Apparently Boncourt does not have anything cool in it or does not have any good sponsors. I received a basket that resembled a grocery basket from Kroger. In my "award" I had: Special K cereal, black cherry jelly, pasta, biscuits, orange juice, iced tea, some kind of cookie, canned mushrooms and a chocolate bar. It was pretty awesome because I do not need to go to the grocery store this week.

Anyways, we have two games this week. One is against Luzern on Wednesday for the Swiss Cup and then we play a regular season game on Sunday against Meyrin Grand Sacconex at home. I'll provide a game preview some time this week because my friend Karon Bradley plays from Meyrin. Until then........

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Italian Class

One of the really cool things about playing in Massagno and overseas is the different languages. In Ticino Switzerland (where Massagno is) they speak Italian. Italian is one of my favorite languages to listen to. It is also pretty awesome to watch as well because you can follow a conversation just by watching the hands of the people speaking. Very entertaining.

I make the most out of the experience of playing overseas. I think to some people living here the language is probably a big problem and they hate it. I love it because it gives me a chance to learn another language and sound cool.

It always seems like the first words I learn in a new language is the curse words and I think this is the same for every player playing overseas. I have every Italian phrase down, most of french, and some serbian. I will not repeat the words because my mother reads this and even if she can't understand I don't want her to think of me negatively. The funny part about some of the phrases is that they don't necessarily translate very well to English so when one of my foreign teammates will curse in English it is something we never say.

Curse words aside, SAM Massagno offers us an Italian class one day a week. It's pretty awesome because we get to pick out what we want to learn. Since this is my second year here I am a little more advanced than some of my teammates and wife but teaching them helps me learn more. Maybe I'll blog one day in all Italian, probably not though.

We study basic things in our class like basketball phrases, food, greetings and how to tell time. I'm looking forward to the verbs because then I feel like we are really learning. Hopefully by Christmas I will be able to speak pretty well.

Anyways, it's about time to go to bed. Questo sabato abbiamo una partita in Boncourt and I need to sleep.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Vinz!

Some of my favorite memories of elementary school were my friends birthdays. I think we all remember the days when it was Bobby's birthday and he brought in those funfetti cupcakes for everyone in the class. We all sang happy birthday and then played heads up seven up or some other game. I thought those days were all over. Apparently not.

Today was my teammate Vinz's (pronounced Vince) birthday. I don't know if this is a Euro tradition or just a SAM Massagno tradition but, Vinz walked into the locker room today with 2 cases of beer, 3 bags of chips, and other various snacks for after practice. All the Swiss guys let out a cheer like the Berlin wall had just been torn down.

When practice was over, we went into the locker room skipping the usual post practice half court shots and proceeded to celebrate Vinz's birthday. Everyone said "auguri" (best wishes) and we cracked open a few cases of beer and passed out delicious cookies that one of our assistant coach's wife made. There are many beverages that I would love to have after practice but unfortunately Feldschlossen beer is not one of them (in case you were wondering, milk is at the bottom of the list.)

So, 15 grown sweaty men sat around the locker room drinking beer and eating cookies, chips and pretzels. I was eating a cookie when Dan asks me, "Who is going to be the guy to get naked first and then take a shower?" Legit question. I sat back, looked around the room and realized this could be a scene from a gay porno. It wasn't but it was very interesting. Then it got weird because I didn't want to just sit around anymore because my stomach hurt from eating 10 cookies in 5 minutes. I slipped into the shower while my teammates enjoyed beer and chips.

I guess I have grown up a ton. Gone are the days of cupcakes and heads up seven up. Beer and naked men have replaced the good old days. Oh well, I guess it's just another awesome experience of playing basketball in Europe and to top it all off, I took the extra cookies home!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pics from Vacallo

Here are a few of my favorite pictures my wonderful wife took from our game against Vacallo. Enjoy!

Posting up. Notice the intensity in the eyes!

The Vacallo dance team. I thought it was pretty funny and they thought it was funnier when I saw them a couple of days later at the Vacallo-Boncourt game. I will give $100 to anyone who can correctly guess their ages!
Jump hook!

Jump shot! That went in. I can't remember if the hook did or did not........


I mentioned in my previous post about how I had some other things on my mind the night before the Vacallo game. That night I had received an e mail from my friend Jaclyn about how our friend Josh's father had passed away that afternoon. Now this is one of the things that sucks about playing basketball and being so far away from home. Josh is one of my best friends in the world and he was a groomsman in my wedding. We have known each for 14 years and I have known his dad for all of them. Being so far away I really wish I could have been there for Josh. Thats one of the things that sucks about this. I hope he knows that I am there for him whenever he needs it.

I would like to just share some things about Mr. Beckett and what a great guy he was.

Mr. Beckett and I had a great relationship. Our relationship started when he became my very first basketball coach when I was in 6th grade. It's funny because I think of him every time I shoot a ball. When I was learning how to shoot, he had told me that a perfect shot will always come back to you after it goes through the net. I can't remember if we were any good, we probably weren't but we had a lot of fun with him and apparently learned some things about basketball.

Mr. Beckett was also an accomplished journalist. He covered the University of Michigan basketball team for the Ann Arbor News during their 1989 NCAA championship. Mission Accomplished is the book that he wrote telling the story of the team. It is a great book and I own an autographed copy.

On top of covering U of M he also covered the Brighton High School boys Varsity team when I played there. I had the pleasure of having many interviews with him and he was the easiest person to talk to. Sometimes I had to remember that I was talking to a reporter and not someone else. I remember him coming into the locker room after games and saying "what a game" or "Im sorry." There were more what a games than Im sorrys. I was looking through my high school scrap book earlier this year and was re reading them and he made me sound like I was a really good basketball player. Thanks.

His passion and interviewing had me interested and possibly thinking of a career in journalism after high school. He encouraged me to do it and was always there to offer advice or encouragement if I needed it. I did not end up pursuing a degree in journalism because of the demands of the degree and the demands of basketball at Marquette. Last year I had talked to Mr. Beckett about possibly writing a book or starting a blog. He had told me that they were great ideas and my blog would be something he would add to his website. I never got the opportunity to share my blog with him but he definitely gave me the courage to start one up.

Thanks Mr. Beckett for everything. I and many others will always remember you.

Games 2 and 3

I'm sorry. It has been awhile since I have blogged but I have a very good excuse. I have been busy. That's always a good excuse right? OK. We have played 2 games since the Fribourg game and I have good news, SAM Massagno has won their first game of the season. On Sunday October 11, we beat the Birstal Starwings. Please don't ask me what a Starwing is because I have no idea. I just sit back and enjoy Euro team names.

I have to be honest though, we picked up another loss before we got the first win. We played Vacallo (reigning Swiss Cup and LNBA champions) on October 7. It was a very good test for us. I would have preferred for us to play the game at full strength but that was just not possible. We were down some important players in the game and it hurt our depth and our game. I hope that its not a sign of things to come because it is too early in the season to have so many injuries.

Poor defense, bad offense and missed shots were added to our troubles against Vacallo. It was a good learning experience though. We gave them a scare in the second half but it wasn't enough to beat them. The final score of the game was 79-64.

As for myself. I could have definitely played better. I had my mind on other things and I slept very poorly the night before. I missed some easy shots that I normally make. I finished the game with 8 points (4-8) and 10 rebounds. A solid game but definitely could have played better.

The good thing about this year is we play more games so we had a chance to rebound. We took full advantage of this opportunity and beat Birstal on Sunday. It felt so good to get that win. I/we didn't win a lot last year but we have a much better team now and I feel that we can finish in the top 5 of the league and we took our first step on Sunday.

If I can take positive things out of losses then I can take negative things out of wins to get better. Our offense is not up to par. We are not utilizing our weapons on offense. I am not going to get into specifics but I feel that we are no where near scratching our potential on offense and it would be better to find it sooner rather than later.

Our defense could also get better. Too many times we don't know what we are doing on the pick and roll our cross screens. Also, there is not enough help side. I say this with myself being included. There are a lot of athletes on the court and I know we can make some athletic plays.

We won the game 82-76. It was a close won and came down to the final minutes. In standard anything can happen in European basketball fashion, Coach told us 15 minutes before the game that we would not have a clock or scoreboard for the game. Something happened and they couldn't get it up and working in time before the game. So, they pulled out the old flip scoreboards and had on official clock at the scorers table. It was difficult to keep track of the time to say the least. We were constantly asking how much time was left. You would have thought that the announcer could announce the time on the speaker in English rather than Italian (because everyone playing can speak English) but hey, this is Europe. We are in their country.

I played pretty well in the game. The official stat line for me is 12 points and 10 rebounds. I call shenanigans on the rebounds though. I cant tell you how many I had but I'm fairly positive that I had more than 10. Our stat keeper this year likes to watch rather than keep stats. He only had me for 3 offensive rebounds at the end of the game when I scored off of 4. Its pretty frustrating but hopefully it will get better as the season progresses. And if not then there will be complaints from one angry center.

We only have 1 game this week and I'm pretty happy about that. I'm pretty beat up after the 3 games last week and I'm going to try and rehab and get back to 100%. We play at Boncourt on Saturday. Ill try and post a pre game report before then.

Until then......

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fribourg Pics

Here are a few of my favorite pics from the game. All but 1 of these were taken by my beautiful/wonderful/amazing wife Liz. Enjoy!
Dan and I talking on the bench during warm ups before the game. It looks like we are talking about something important. Probably not though.
Let the season begin! Tip off. I won this but definitely tipped it to the wrong team. It happens
One of my jump hooks during the game. This went in.
My dunk that brought the house down. I have to admit, it felt really good.
This is the after picture of the dunk. I didn't pull myself up either. My hops have increased significantly since I left Marquette.

Game 1 vs Fribourg

Well, game 1 is over and done with. I really wish I had happy news to report but unfortunately I do not. It was a very good game but we (Massagno) were not able to pull it out. We lost 78-85.

One of the many things I learned from Coach Crean at Marquette was to focus on the positive and not to dwell on the negative. There were many positives to the game. It was the most competitive and best we have played thus far. We came out of the gate very strong. We led 24-18 at the end of the first quarter. Everything seemed to be clicking at the beginning of the game. Our defense was strong and the offense looked very well.

Our offensive rebounding is another positive. Coach is very encouraged by this and he said that we had 19 for the game. That's pretty impressive. We have a lot more size this year and that definitely helps out. Our front line is 6'10", 6'9" and 6'7."

It felt really good to be playing basketball competitively again. So many times last year we played to keep the score close and yesterday we were playing to win. We played hard last year but this is different. Unfortunately, all the emotions that come along with that were inside me and I was not a very fun person to be around after the game. That happens I guess. I try very hard to leave basketball at the gym and not to bring it home. This is especially important right now because I am married. I do not need to bring my bad attitude home to Liz but she is such a good wife that she understands.

We play more games in the league this year so we play another game on Wednesday. This is a good thing in my mind because a win can help us forget the loss and its another chance to play basketball. That's never a bad thing. It should be a very good game for us because we play Vacallo. They are the reigning Swiss champions and only 20 minutes away which means its also a derby (european word for rivalry.)

They are very talented and well coached. This game means a lot to me because I have a lot of friends playing for Vacallo. I want to play well against them and of course beat them. They also have some very good American/foreign players. They return a very solid point guard that has led them to 2 Swiss Cup championships and 1 league championship. Matt Schneidermann (Northern Iowa) is a 3 point shooting threat and a match up problem because of his height. The only new face this year is Duane Erwin for University of Memphis. I played against him when he played for Memphis and also in Switzerland when he played for Lugano. He is a terror on the boards and a very good team player.

Vacallo should be a great test for us and I can not wait for the game.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Some Things........

I'm in my 4th year of playing overseas now and some things still amaze me. I thought that I have seen it all but apparently I have not. We are two days away from playing our first official game against the most successful club (Fribourg Olympic) in Swiss basketball history and we do not have practice the day before the game. I'll say it again for affect, We do not have a team practice the day before the first game of the Swiss LNBA season. The Americans, if we want too, can come in and shoot on Saturday but the rest of the team does not have to come.

Somehow I can not picture this flying with some of my past coaches. I will not name any names but I have had 2-4 hour blood baths the day before games and sometimes the day of the game. Oh well, I just got back from enjoying some wine with my best friend and my wife in beautiful downtown Lugano. I guess we just have to focus on the positive.

Until next time.........