Monday, December 13, 2010

Coach Raymonds

On Monday December 6, 2010 I learned that Coach Hank Raymonds passed away after a long battle with cancer. For those that don't know, Hank Raymonds is a legend at Marquette. He began his career as an assistant at MU in 1961 under Ed Hickey and later under Al McGuire. Hank was Al's successor after he retired following the 1977 National Championship. During his tenure as head coach he compiled a record of 126-50.

Hank was obviously a great coach but he was an even better human being. Coach Raymonds was always around when I was at Marquette. He would stop by at practice and would be at all of the games. We understood what he meant to the Marquette basketball program but also to the Marquette community.

I obviously never played for Coach Raymonds but I always enjoyed the conversations we had. He would always greet me with a gentle handshake and the conversation flowed so easily. Coach would offer words of wisdom for basketball but our conversations would flow into life as well. He left a mark on me as I am sure he did on every other Marquette player he had met.

Coach Raymonds is Marquette Basketball but he is also one of the reasons why Marquette University is such a special place for me and to so many other people.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bad Luck

Being injured is no fun but they are just part of the game and you have to deal with it. Show me someone that is playing to not get injured and I will show you someone that isn't playing very good. Unfortunately, I have had a bit of bad luck this year. On November 11 we were playing at home against Le Puy. It was a game that we needed to win because we had lost 3 in a row and Le Puy was playing very well going into the game.

The game started out very intense and physical which seems to be the norm for our league. I had taken a few shots in the beginning of the game and got bumped on every one. I knew that nothing was going to come easy against Le Puy. Five minutes into the 1st quarter my point guard was doubled in the post, and I cut down the lane to go up for a layup. Like my previous shots I had gotten bumped. Unlike my previous shots I landed awkwardly and rolled my right ankle.

I have rolled this ankle many times before but I had never rolled it like this. All of my weight landed on my ankle as I was coming down from jumping. I hit the deck immediately and rolled around on the floor in pain. I had never experienced pain like this before on the basketball court and that includes playing with a dislocated shoulder and playing a half with a broken elbow.

Rolled ankles are a tricky thing to deal with. I rolled my ankle in college a few times and I was back on the court right away. Unfortunately it was not possible to get back on the court as quickly this time. After being examined, the medical staff and the management came to the decision that I would need some time to recover. The recovery was important for them because they want me to play at 100% and that wouldn't be possible if I came back earlier. The decision was made to keep me out 4-6 weeks.

Last Saturday was 4 weeks and I am almost fully recovered. The tendon in my ankle is healed and the stability is back in it. The thing that is holding me back right now is the pain from the cartilidge and bone bruises on the inside of my ankle. I am not a doctor but I understand it like this. When the injury occurred, the bones knocked into each other so hard that they caused deep bruising. It is taking a longer time to heal because the bruising is so deep. I only have pain when I do athletic movements but do not feeling anything when I walk around.

It has been extremely hard to sit on the bench and watch the guys practice and play games. I find myself busier being injured too. I still have to go to all of the practices but now I have to get treatment everyday and I go to the weight room to try and keep my endurance on the exercise bike.

I get to shoot tomorrow for the 1st time and I am extremely excited about it. Hopefully I have turned the corner and will be back on the court soon. Christmas break is right around the corner so I have some extra time to recover back at home in Wisconsin and Michigan. I should be back on the court on January 8 against Bayonne.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembrance Day

Every November 11, Americans honor their veterans by observing Veterans Day. It is my opinion that we should thank our veterans every day for the freedoms that we enjoy. My grandfather and great uncle served in the Navy and Army respectively during World War II. Grandpa Max was in the Pacific Theater and Uncle Bill served in the European Theater. Every now and then my grandfather will tell me stories about the war and I really enjoy them.

While Americans observe Veterans Day, the French celebrate Armistice Day. It is pretty much the same holiday but it celebrates the ending of World War I, which ended at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. There are some differences in the way it is observed though. I didn't see any Veterans Day sales and the kids had the day off of school. This is the normal for the many holidays that Europeans celebrate but while I don't understand all of them, I understand this one.

The Armistice ending World War I was signed in Compiegne, France and was obviously a great victory for the country. Blois is no different than so many other French villages with a monument honoring the lives lost in the war.

The United States did indeed participate in World War I but not until April 6, 1917. While we did participate we also didn't suffer the amount of casualties or have our country torn apart like many countries in Europe did. France suffered 1,697,800 killed over the course of the war with 300,000 being civilians. In comparison, the United States had 116,708 killed with 757 of them being civilians. In total, there were 16 million deaths and 21 million wounded during World War I. A simple look at the numbers shows the significance of the holiday.

I should note that the numbers and figures aren't exact. It was certainly tried but impossible to keep exact figures because of the destruction caused from new war technology, firepower and trench warfare that was utilized. There are still fields around Europe that people aren't permitted to walk in because of the danger that exists from the amount of unexploded shells. My figures came from Wikipedia.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cars and Driving

How do you get around? That's a question that I get asked a lot. I also get asked if I drive on the left side of the road. Both questions have easy answers. Europeans only drive on the left in the United Kingdom. As it pertains to the other question, all of the contracts I have signed have had the use of a car included. In my 5 professional seasons I have had many different kinds of cars.

My first year playing for BC Lugano Tigers, the team gave me a new Volkswagon Passat station wagon. This was my first experience living in Europe and I was very nervous about the driving situation. European roads are smaller than American roads and European drivers are a little different than American drivers. They aren't bad but just a little different. I was worried that I would scrape my car against other cars parked on a narrow street or go the wrong way down a one way and wreck the car. None of these things happened and I really enjoyed driving the Passat. The station wagon wasn't a big deal either because hatch backs are far more common in Europe than back at home.

During my second season playing in Sion, Switzerland I had 2 different cars. My agent had a clause in my contract stating that I could not receive a car older than 5 years. The first car I had was an Opel Corsa. It was new and pretty nice but not my final car. I only had this car for about a month. My club was sponsored by a Volvo dealership and all the players were going to get brand new Volvos. My car was a Volvo V70. We had to drive 30 minutes to practice 2 times a day so it was a good thing that I had a nice car to do it in. Apparently I didn't wash it a whole lot though.

My 3rd year playing for Massagno was the first time that I ever had a problem with a car. Massagno was sponsored by Bemauto Citroen car dealership and the American players got to drive new Citroens. These cars though were stick shift and I didn't know how to drive a stick.Thankfully my teammate Brody Angley taught me to drive. It was difficult learning to drive in the mountains but he was a great teacher and had a lot of patience with me. I actually really enjoy driving a stick shift now. My Citroen C3 felt kind of like a go kart and I had a lot of fun in it.

The cars in Massagno had the decals of the club on them as well as the sponsor name and our names on the side. I thought that this was really cool but some players didn't like it. They felt that it was a way for the club to track their every move.

This year I don't have the pleasure of driving a brand new car. The club gave me a 1996 Renault Safrane. They wanted to make sure I had a big car and enough room for my legs. Apparently, back in the day, this was a very nice car. It has definitely seen better days but I don't do a lot of driving. I live right by the gym so I walk to practice every day.

One day they told me that I was going to get an advertisement put on the side of my Safrane. I was pretty excited about this because I thought that it could spice it up a little. The advertisement is for Landes Karting so I was expecting a race track around the car with karts racing around it. I was getting excited about the possibilities. Unfortunately the advertisement on the side just says Landes Karting. My disappointment was immeasurable.

All of this car talk really makes me miss my car back at home. I took advantage of the Cash for Clunkers deal and traded in my Ford Explorer and bought a Ford Fusion last summer. I have owned it for 14 months and have only driven it for 3. I guess it is just the sacrifice I make for getting to live out my dream.

Monday, October 11, 2010

All Access

ADA-TV provides an all access look into our team and into our organization. They are always busy putting together different highlights and videos. In the pre-season they put together a video of our track workouts as well as individual player highlights from our friendly games. Now that the season is under way, they create highlights from all of our games. This is extremely useful to my father who can critique my game 5,000 miles away and in the comfort of his own home.

This is action from the first game of the year against Saint Ettienne. It was a very good game and back and forth throughout. Our crazy fans can be heard in the background with their horns, drums and whatever else they use to make noise.

In addition to basketball action, ADA-TV puts together all access looks into game preparation and the locker room. This is probably the coolest part of what they do because it provides behind the scenes action and a look into my life.

ADA-TV was able to record a timeout during the game against GET Vosges. This is a typical timeout. Our coach speaks in french and then our assistant coach translates for me and Kai. I have to position myself on the sides so the assistant coach can kneel next to me and translate. It is a little different but I never leave a timeout wondering what I am supposed to do. Our assistant coach speaks perfect english and is a great translator.

This clip is in the locker room after the victory against GET Vosges. I can only be seen near the end of the clip because I was busy doing an interview for the radio. This video is pretty good because I don't think the guys knew they were being filmed at the beginning. Everyone is happy because we got the win but the happiness faded when we realized someone forgot to bring beer for after the game. Our coach doesn't give a speech after the game so he isn't in there. This is a pretty typical thing in Europe. I haven't had a coach yet who gives post game speeches. As you can see, our locker room isn't the greatest but it gets the job done.

All of their work can be seen by clicking here. It is definitely worth the time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Typical Week

I get a lot of questions from back home about what I do during the day or what my week looks like. Our practice times are pretty much set in stone as far as times so my schedule doesn't change a whole lot. I figured my typical week schedule would make for a good blog. So here it goes.

I wake up at around 9 am on Mondays and prepare myself a nice breakfast of eggs and toast. Although we only hit the court once on Monday, it is pretty rough so I want to make sure I start the day off right. We have to go to to the weight room at 10:30 and lift for an hour. Coach didn't give us a specific program to work off of, so we can do what we want. I like this because I get to work on what I want to and what I feel like I need.

After weights, we head over to the gym for an hour and a half practice. This is a tough practice that includes a lot of running. We have Sundays off so I guess coach wants us to run off the rust. Practice always ends with sprints. Last Monday ended with 12 minutes of sprints. It is not very fun.

Mondays are also our shopping days. Liz and I head on over to Leclerc (the French Meijer or Wal Mart) and get what we need for the week ahead. While I love going to Meijer, I hate going to this store. Too many people! It is pretty terrible but the prices and quality are good.

We hit the court twice on Tuesdays. I wake up around 9 am again for breakfast and head on over to the weight room at 10:30. The team lifts on our own for an hour and then we head over to the gym for practice at 12. This practice isn't a team practice but like an individual. Coach breaks us up into guards and big men. We do a half hour of shooting and then play 1 on 1 for a half hour. The shooting isn't just getting shots up. We do drills and they are done with intensity. The games of one on one are intense as well. It is a great workout.

I relax in the afternoon before practice at 7 pm again. This is a team practice and we work on things that we need to get better at. If our fast break was poor in our last game then we would do fast break drills or work on specific plays.

Tuesday night is pizza night for Liz and I. The local Dominos offers every pizza for 8 euros on Tuesdays. It is a great deal and something we had to take advantage of. I love pizza night.

We just have 1 mid day practice on Wednesdays. I get to sleep in and usually wake up around 10 am. This practice is a lot like Tuesdays practice but more up and down. Coach likes to work us because it is the only practice we have that day. We go for around an hour and a half and end with 15 minutes of shooting.

Since I am so tired after practice on Wednesday, I relax for a few hours and head back to the weight room in the afternoon. I don't go there to lift weights though. I go there to relax in the sauna and the jacuzzi. I need to take advantage of the facilities and to take the proper care of myself.

The team meets up at the gym at 11 am to watch film on ourselves and the other team. Our coaches do an excellent job of scouting our opponents. They have a breakdown on everybody on the opposing team as well as all of their plays. We watch these clips and then some game action. Sometimes we watch ourselves too.

After film we head to the court for an hour of partner shooting.

I relax on Thursday afternoons because for practice on Thursday night we play a game to 100. Coach splits the team up evenly and we go at it. The game is broken up into quarters, so we end the quarter when a team reaches 25, 50, 75 and 100. Each quarter is also a different situation. Coach doesn't say a whole lot and lets us play. I love Thursday because I feel like it gets us ready to play and we just play basketball.

Friday is the day before the game so we only have 1 practice at 7 pm. We do have the opportunity to shoot at noon though. I always shoot at noon. I work on post moves and then shoot 100 jumpers. It isn't too heavy but not too light either.

Practice is always the same on Friday. It isn't too light or too heavy. We get loose and work on us as well as the other team. We shoot at the end of practice as well.

Saturday is game day and the day we prepare for all week. The day is usually spent just relaxing around the apartment. I do my pre game ritual of showering and having coffee and then I head to the gym at 6:40 for an 8 pm game.

I always say I get paid to practice and play the games for free. I love game day even though I get extremely nervous before tip off.

Hopefully Saturdays end with a win.

This is our off day and I just take it off. Nothing is open in France on Sundays so Liz and I might go for a walk downtown or just sit around the apartment. Lately we have been watching football on Sunday nights.

So, that is it. That's my week. Nothing very exciting but it's my life at the moment and I love it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Season

Well the season is well under way here in Blois, France. The NM1 championship has begun and it has been very exciting so far. We are 4 games in and I have quickly learned that there will be no nights off here in France. The league is very competitive and many teams have announced their intentions to move up to Pro B but there are only 2 spots available for promotion.

The start of our schedule was favorable to us as 3 out of our first 4 games were at home. Of those 3, 2 of those games were against 2 of the teams that are trying to move up including Brest who moved down from Pro B last year. We have an edge at home because the fans here in Blois are awesome. They are easily the loudest and most dedicated fans I have played in front of in my professional career. The stands were packed for our pre season games and it is standing room only for our regular season games. They really are the 6th man out on the court.

In our first game we played against St. Ettienne. They are a very talented team with some very strong inside players. The game was back and forth and tight throughout the whole time. We eventually pulled the win out with a score of 72-68.

Our second game was at home against Brest. This was going to be a tough game for us. Brest is a team that was built to move up to Pro B as they had no intentions of moving down last year. Sometimes teams are very talented and for some reason or another are relegated to a lower league because things just don't click. This was another game that started out very tight for us. We were up by 12 at the end of the 1st quarter. Our 2nd quarter didn't go so well. We didn't play very good basketball and were passive on offense and defense. Brest closed the gap a little bit and were only down by 2 at the half. We played better in the 3rd quarter and we blew the game open in the 4th and won by a score of 89-69.

Our 3rd game was on the road in Paris against Centre Federal BB. This is an interesting team because it is composed of the under 18 French National Team. The team is at a sports institute and the players practice basketball there as well as go to school. In addition to the basketball players, the best athletes in France practice and train at the facility in Paris. The basketball team is very talented but not physically there yet. Their talent alone will win them some games this year as they do every year.

We had a rough start with them on the road and just could not get it going on offense. We were down at the half and could not get things clicking. The young players hit some tough shots in the beginning and it gave them some confidence. We were down at the half but eventually won the game by a score of 65-61. A win is a win and we will take it any way we can get. So after 3 games we were 3-0 and sitting in 1st place with 2 other teams.

Our 4th game was against Saint Chammond and important because it was at home. Saint Chammond is a team that is a little difficult to prepare for because they are composed of a bunch of players that don't necessarily have positions. I wish we could say that we went out and played a great game and got the win but that was not the case. It seemed like our poor offense carried over from the Centre Federal game. In addition to the offense, we didn't defend the 3 point shot very well. It is a shame because our fans were very into the game.

I can't comment on the game without also comment on the happenings inside of the game. Our point guard was thrown out of the game for fighting while the other guy got to stay in the game. Our coach also was hit with a technical and a few other calls did not go our way. These things might have distracted us a little bit and thrown off our rhythm. As professionals we need to work through these things but in the heat of the moment it can really change the momentum.

We ended up losing the game 76-62. It was our first loss of the season and hurt a little bit. I hate losing and it really bothers me. Hopefully we can correct some things in practice and can get back on track in our next game against Souffelweyersheim. That game is on the road and if we can pull it out will be a big win. I am just looking forward to getting back on the court and get the ship steered back in the right direction.

The pictures were taken by our team photographer Tuan Nguyen. You can check out more of his pictures here. Also, you can go to our team website and see action from our games. It is a great site and very well run by the awesome people of Sidamo and ADA TV.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Over the years I have had the opportunity to play with some incredible basketball players. All of my old teammates from Marquette have at one point played professional basketball either overseas or in the NBA. Some of them have entered the coaching ranks and are sharing their knowledge and experiences with young basketball players and making them better.

As good at basketball as these guys are, they are even better people and I have formed great friendships with them. I try and talk to my old teammates as often as I can. Being so far away from home I have to use various forms of communication like Twitter, Facebook, e mail and BBM. When I haven't talked to someone in awhile, we just pick up where we left off.

Since we are located all over the country and all over the world we don't see each other very much. The summer of 2009 was definitely wedding season for my former teammates as 3 of us got married. Weddings are a great chance for us all to re connect and reminisce about the old times and talk about what's going on in the present and what is in store for the future.

As most of you know I was married on June 26, 2009 to my beautiful wife Liz. It was such an amazing day and I wanted a group shot of all of my old teammates that were at the wedding. These guys are like family to me and I wanted a picture with them.

Here it is. I just wanted to wish them all good luck as the season is fast approaching and the school year is starting back up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pre Season- Running, running and some more running

A frequent conversation between Dan Fitzgerald and me last year was if we would ever be able to go through a Marquette practice again. We were very happy with our practice schedule last year and we thought we wouldn't be able to practice like we were 21 again. I now know that I was wrong.

Pre season here has been great but it has been pretty rough. Our coach has been testing our limits as far as how hard we can go. We started the first 3 weeks going to the track every morning and running sprints. I'm not talking about easy sprints either, I'm talking about multiple 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 meter sprints. My legs were completely dead the first couple weeks. Those sprints were just in the morning session too. During the afternoon we reported to the gym for team practice.

In the afternoon session Coach had a pre season conditioning test known as the beep test. I am familiar with this test because we used to do it at Marquette but unlike at MU, we had to reach a certain level for the test. For those who don't know, the beep test is a test in which you run 20 meters and have to touch the line on every beep. Each level is 1 minute and the beeps get faster every minute. The big guys had to get to level 12 and the guards had to get to level 14. On my first try I got to 8. It wasn't so much that I was winded as it was the terrible pain I felt in my legs. Coach had us run this test every day before practice until you passed your level. It took me 2 weeks to do it but when I finally did it, I was the happiest guy in the gym. My teammate Zaka also told me I was the luckiest guy in the gym.

I feel great physically here in Blois and I think that I will be in the best shape of my life. I am just glad that we have not been on the track in over a week. I don't know if we are done with it yet but I do know that if we go back, I will be able to handle it even if I don't like it.

If you go to the team website and click on the video "en piste" you can enjoy watching us run.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Swiss Hoop Dreams

We had a great view from our balcony last year in Massagno, Switzerland. We could see the beautiful Swiss Alps that included Mt. Bre and San Salvatore as well as great sunsets. If you looked down from our balcony, there was a very nice park with a basketball court and playground equipment. While kids were always on the swings or the slides, they barely ever played on the basketball court.

One day we saw a young boy playing some basketball. I guess that's what you would call it anyways. He was playing with a soccer ball and he kicked it more than he shot it.

Swiss Hoop Dreams baby.

New Season, New Country, New Opportunity

What's going on guys? It has been a long time. If there is anyone that is reading this and waits in anticipation for blogs then I'm sorry. I have been on summer vacation but the time has finally come to get back to work. I had a great summer and I plan on doing a few blogs about it over the next couple weeks while I am going through pre season.

I am currently sitting on the couch in my new apartment in Blois, France. I managed to finally make it out of Switzerland and take my game to another country. My new team is ADA Blois Basket and I am very excited about the opportunity to play in France. It has always been my opinion that France is one of the top basketball countries in Europe and now I am playing here. ADA Blois is not in the top French league (Pro A) but actually in the 3rd league (NM1.) The team wants to move up into Pro B (2nd league in France) and they hired me to help them to achieve their goal.

The team is very serious and professional as opposed to last year. In Massagno we only had 5 professional players and they were all Americans. My new team is made up entirely of professionals players and staff. NM1 rules state though that there can only be 1 American on the roster and that is me. The rest of the team is made up of French players. The guys are extremely nice and I have been very fortunate to have played with some great guys over the years and this appears to be the case again.

I arrived in Blois on July 27 and on July 28 we got down to business. The practices here feel more like Marquette practices than anything I have experienced so far in my professional career. Today for instance we went to the track to run sprints, then went to the gym to play 3 on 3 for an hour. After a 4 hour break we had a full team practice for 2 hours. Needless to say I have been very sore for the past 2 weeks. Even though it is a lot of work, our coach seems really good. He works us hard but he doesn't yell and scream. He seems like he genuinely cares about the team and it is easy to work for a coach like that.

The first week and a half here have been good even though Liz is not with me. We thought I was leaving in late August so she was going to come with me then. Unfortunately the team wanted me out here earlier and she had prior commitments to attend too. I can not wait for her to come out here and experience French life. I went downtown for the first time on Wednesday night and the whole time I kept thinking about how I can show Liz all these new things. It is going to be a good year.

That's all for now guys. I am excited about blogging again and I have some good stuff coming up.

Until next time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Playoffs Part 2

Sorry for the long layoff in between posts. Last time I blogged I wrote about how big of a beating we took in the first game of the playoffs. After that game I thought it was going to be a long series but we responded very well.

The second game of the series was back in Vacallo where we had lost the first game. We didn't even look like the same team and I think we surprised Vacallo a little bit. Everything was clicking right away. The fast break was well executed and our jump shots were falling. Mid way through the second quarter we had built a 16 point lead. At that point the Vacallo head coach started to get on the refs a little bit and even got himself a technical foul. He warranted a second one but the wonderful Swiss refs didn't want to kick the reigning coach of the year in Switzerland out of the game. His technical paid off and they got the benefit of the calls from there on out.

Game 2 was a really fun game to play in with all of the lead changes and the atmosphere from the fans. It was kind of strange too. I think I got a little wrapped up in the game because I didn't realize when it was over. I remember playing and then all of a sudden hearing the final horn. I had one other game like that in my basketball career and that was when Marquette player Arizona in Milwaukee during my junior year. Those are just those fun games that you don't want to see end. Unfortunately both did and I lost both of them.

Game 3 was finally back in the comfortable confines of Palamondo. We found ourselves down 0-2 and needed to win to keep the season going. Being down like that in a series is definitely a weird feeling. I have been in that situation one other time and the vibe around that particular team was just to get the season over with but it wasn't like that this time around. We wanted to keep playing ball and I think it really showed on the court.

Our pick and roll defense wasn't very strong at the start of the game but we were able to make some in game adjustments to keep the score close in the first half. The second half was where the real action of the game took place and also where we made our attack. Our young guys didn't give us a whole lot during the season but they sparked the come back for us. They were crashing the offensive boards, pushing the ball on the break and playing tough defense. It was a tie game with 3 minutes to go but Vacallo hit some really big shots and their experience was too much for us down the stretch.

The loss in game 3 was the final nail in the coffin for our season. It was very strange after the game. After the first game everyone assumed we were going to lose every game by 30 but we came out and played hard and strong in the next two games and could have easily won them both. It was almost as if our management viewed them as wins. They came out onto the court after the game and offered their congratulations on a good season.

So, the 2009-10 LNBA Swiss basketball season and my 4th year of playing professionally has come to a close. Now is the time to relax for a little bit, go home, re charge and get ready for next year.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Playoff time is here in Switzerland! It has been a long season and we now have the opportunity to earn what we worked so hard for, a Swiss LNBA Championship. We won our last regular season game against Monthey (completing the sweep of our Valaisan opponents) guaranteeing us the 7th seed and playing defending league champion Vacallo.

One win was all that separated us from the 7th and 8th seed so we needed to win against Monthey. If we finished in the 8th position we would play 1st place Lugano. After the Monthey victory, a reported asked me if we were trying to avoid Lugano. I was a little bothered by the question. As an athlete and as a person, I never try to avoid any challenge put in front of me. Also, as a competitor, I always want to finish in the best possible position. I would never try to avoid anything if it meant winning or losing. We came in to Monthey to win and secure the 7th seed and that was what we did.

With the 7th seed secured and the match ups set, we had to prepare for Vacallo. The league schedule allowed us to have 2 weeks off. Coach took it easy on us in practice by having the conditioning coach came in so we could run and stay in shape without any contact. He also gave us a 3 day weekend so we could rest up and heal any injuries. During that time span we also played a friendly game against Lugano so we could shake the rust off and try some new things out.

Playing against Vacallo meant that we would have a derby for the first round of the playoffs. A derby is the Euro word for cross town rivalry game. The atmosphere at the derbies are always exciting. The fans are always banging drums, blowing air horns and singing. It is pretty cool to be a part of.

We started the best of 5 series on Sunday at Vacallo. Going into the game we knew that it was going to be tough without Dan but our awful play did not help the situation. Vacallo is a well coached team and they were ready for us. They disrupted our offense by ball pressure, getting into the passing lanes and double teams. It was probably our worst game of the year. Nothing went right for us.

The good thing though is that it is not a 1 game series. We have another shot at them on Wednesday and we had a great practice last night with a lot of intensity. I think we will come ready to play for Game 2.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Familiar Sights

I met Nicolas Porchet 4 years ago while I was playing for Lugano. While we were playing against his team, I saw him warming up in a UW- Milwaukee shirt. I told him I went to Marquette and my girlfriend (wife now) went to UWM. Nic is Swiss but he was familiar with all the colleges because his brother lived in West Allis for a number of years. When we played his team, Monthey, at home earlier this year he came into the gym wearing a red Wisconsin sweat shirt. When I saw the shirt I asked him what he was thinking and he said he was just trying to get into my head before the game. He also said that the next time I saw him he would have his Marquette shirt on.

When we played at Monthey this past Saturday, I walked into the gym and Nic was shooting around in his gold Marquette sweatshirt. Liz noticed it first and she thought it was pretty awesome and snapped a picture. It's nice to get a little Marquette love 5,000 miles away.

I grew up in Michigan and Miller really isn't the beer of choice there. It was obviously different when I moved to Milwaukee to attend Marquette. Miller was everywhere and I lived a mile away from the factory. When I turned 21, I would enjoy an ice cold Miller product every now and then. That has all changed now that I am in Europe. Instead of having a Miller Lite or a Budweiser, we will have a Feldschlosschen, Lowenbrau or a Carlsberg. The Euro beers are alright but I would much rather have an American brew.

The other day I was at the local Coop (grocery store) and saw something glorious. While searching for pancakes I spotted a 6 pack of MGD's. I don't drink a lot but I knew I needed to get it. Drinking a MGD reminds me of home a little bit and being so far away, I will take anything I can get.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Injury Update

Injuries are a part of the game. Everybody that plays any sport knows that they might get hurt during the course of training, practice or games. It could be anything from a jammed finger, sprained ankle or broken bones. These types of things happen. Two years ago I managed to break both of my thumbs in the same season.

The real challenge isn't the actual injury, it is how you deal with it mentally and physically. Being in another country adds a different variable to everything. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about it.

Recently, my teammate and best friend (Dan Fitzgerald) went down with a season ending injury (the season is almost over so anything can be a season ending injury right now.) Dan was pretty upset about it as were all of us because he is our second leading scorer and we are about to start the playoffs. I have to say though, he is doing an incredible job of dealing with everything. He is not sitting around the apartment sulking or even giving off negative vibes. If it weren't for the crutches, I would think that nothing happened to him.

The injury is hard to deal with as it is but being in Switzerland makes it harder. As I mentioned in a previous post, finding a doctor that speaks fluent English is a challenge. It is a constant struggle to get the right response you are looking for. Also, Dan is far away from his family and friends and the medical treatment he is familiar with. His injury has been diagnosed but he is still waiting on what treatment options are available. It may be possible to go home and receive treatment through the team's insurance but he does not yet know the answer. Going home would be the best option because he will have doctors who speak english as well as having his family around him during the very important recovery process. If going home is not an option, then he would have treatment here for insurance purposes. In the mean time, Dan is waiting to find out the answer.

Unfortunately another former teammate of mine, Mike Kinsella, was recently injured as well. He hurt himself much the same way that Dan had. Instead of going home for treatment, he had opted to have the procedure done in Germany. A few days after the injury he had surgery by one of the top 5 surgeons in the country who frequently operates on the professional German soccer players. He is receiving phenomenal care in Freiburg, Germany and the team is doing a great job in assisting with his recovery. In fact, the German Olympic Volleyball team doctor is overseeing his recovery. For those that are familiar with Mike's basketball career, he is no stranger to unfortunate accidents. I am confident that he will return to 100%.

As shocking as injuries can be, I would say that how you deal with them mentally determines how you are going to recover. My friends have great attitudes and are both hard workers. I am impressed at how Dan and Mike are dealing with their injuries. I know that they will get back to where they were because they play the game and injuries are just part of the game.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Groin Bump

There are plenty of ways to celebrate a good play. Many people prefer the high five. It is classic and you can't go wrong with it. The only way to incorrectly perform a high 5 is if your name is Mike Kinsella and you miss Coach Crean's hand 3 times in a row.

There is also the raising of the roof. I remember seeing the Red Wings doing it after a Stanley Cup win and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I personally have never performed this move because I have never lived for a moment that called for the roof to be raised.

Throwing bows was the thing to do in high school. It seems pretty stupid now but it was pretty awesome then. Throwing a bow is just the touching of forearms between two friends, in case you were wondering.

Another popular form of celebration is the chest bump. In high school I used to chest bump Josh Beckett during warm ups. At Marquette we used to have the extreme celebration after wins. The extreme celebration includes 2 or more people running into a chest bump.

The thing is, anyone can high five, raise the roof, throw a bow or chest bump. Here in Massagno we are trying something new. We came up with the groin bump. It takes a little time getting used to but I think its going to be the next big thing. You be the judge. Photo courtesy of Dominika Dabrowski.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adventures of the Boss: Part 2

One of the really great things in college was never having to remember to bring things on road trips. Our great team managers always brought practice shorts, practice gear, game gear, socks and tights. The one thing that was left up to us to bring was our shoes. Since this was the only thing we had to bring on trips and since I have a mild case of OCD, I would check my bag about 50 times to make sure I didn't forget. I made all 4 years of college without ever forgetting my shoes. I am pretty sure though, that if someone did forget, one of the managers would have a solution.

It is a different change of pace over here and we actually have to be responsible for ourselves. We have to bring our own gear to everything. The team gave us 2 practice jerseys but it is on us to bring them and wash them. We don't even have a permanent locker room to keep our stuff in so we carry all of our stuff in a gym bag. Game days is the only day where we get a break. We just have to bring our shoes, socks and tights and the team brings the jerseys. If I were to forget my shoes I have no idea what would happen, but the Boss certainly does.

On December 6, SAM Massagno played against the Birstal Starwings in Basel. When the Boss went to put his bag on the bus he thought that it felt a little light but didn't think anything more of it. After the 3 hour bus ride we got off the bus and headed into our locker room. I was sitting on the bench and the Boss was sitting right next to me. While I am putting on my shoes, I notice out of the corner of my eye that the Boss is tearing through his gym bag and repeatedly calling himself an idiot. I ask him what is wrong and he stands up and proclaims that he is "a f***ing idiot" and forgot his shoes! The Boss then made his way back to his gym bag to check and see if his shoes magically appeared. They hadn't but he continued to look anyways. He tore though the back, taking stuff out and putting it back in. The Boss stood up again and repeatedly said that he is a f***ing idiot. This awkward routine carried on for a good 3 minutes.

While I did view the situation as hilarious, I couldn't laugh because I felt really bad for him. Stores aren't open in Switzerland on Sundays and even if they were, I hardly doubt that the Boss would be able to find a size 15 basketball shoe in them. Then a light went on in the Boss's head. I had worn my Air Force 1's to the game and he thought that he might be able to wear them. I told him that he was more than welcome to but I wear a 13 and he wears a 15 and the likelihood of him breaking his toes was extremely high. Apparently the Boss didn't care though because he was ready to suit up in my beat up, low top, and 2 sizes to small shoes.

Our team manager was freaking out. He could not have one of his Americans not play because he forgot his shoes and he wasn't going to take the risk of him breaking all of his toes and being out for the year. He also had an idea. There was a game before ours and he asked one of the teams if we could borrow a pair of 15's. They didn't have that size but they did have a 14 and they were basketball shoes. The Boss was saved! I still would have liked to have seen him hooping in my shoes but I guess that will never happen. The other shoes worked out well too because the Boss ended up being player of the game that day but he did earn him some nasty blisters.

Every once in awhile we make fun of the Boss for this little mishap but it did remind me to check my bag twice before leaving for a game.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Marco!

In one of my first blogs I talked about the birthday tradition for SAM Massagno. It basically consists of the birthday boy bringing in beer and everyone drinking in the locker room after practice. Today I experienced a real Italian birthday party.

A couple weeks ago Anna, my teammate Marco's girlfriend, asked us if we wanted to come to Marco's surprise 25th birthday party. Marco is a great teammate and an even better person so of course we wanted to go. The party was set for a Saturday afternoon at 1 o'clock. We didn't know how Italians celebrate birthdays so we didn't know what to expect. What were we supposed to wear? How big of a deal is it? Do we bring something? We even wondered if there was going to be food.

As usual we were one of the first people to arrive but that was ok because it is better to be early than late to a surprise party. It was also good because it gave us time to meet some of Marco's family and friends. We made sure we parked far enough away from the house because our cars have a big SAM Basket Massagno logo and our names on the side. We waited for about 30 minutes as more people and more food arrived. When the time came we hid in a smaller room to surprise him. We didn't know proper Italian surprise etiquette so we just screamed really loud when he opened the door.

Marco really appreciated all of the family and friends that came and was genuinely surprised. It was really cool. It was also time to eat and drink once the guest of honor had arrived. Marco is from Reggio, Italy and his family brought typical food from that region. I really enjoyed the parmesan cheese and a special spinach and cheese appetizer. They also brought salted and pressed pork fat that I am not a big fan of.

The beverages had a personal flair to them as well. One of Marco's family members owns a vineyard and makes wine so there was a lot of this wine. The wine was extremely good. I liked the sparkling white dessert wine the best. Marco said he began drinking it when he was 12 years old because it was so sweet. Unfortunately we had a game the next day so I could not drink a lot but I did have a little. All of the food that was laid out was delicious and I was completely satisfied.

There was a lot of food laid out for appetizers and I was shocked when they said that lunch was going to be served. When we had our food everybody told us bon apetito probably 15 times. Then they asked how to say it in english. So, we had to explain that we don't say anything when we serve our meals. I felt kind of bad about it. Marco told us to always keep food in front of you or someone might think that something was wrong. I kept going up and getting more. It was so good. I literally could not get enough.

The party started at 1 and just kept going. They kept bringing out more and more wine. One of Marco's friends even brought his own jug of wine that he had made. I stayed with my sparkling water while everyone else stayed with their wine. Someone broke out the Italian birthday song. Not to be outdone, Kam suggested that we sing our birthday song. We sang it and everyone joined in. This happened about 6 times during the afternoon. We just sat around eating, drinking and singing. It was really nice to talk to Marco's family and find out a little more about him too.

The appetizers and lunch were great but dessert had to be my favorite. Italian birthday cakes are not like American cakes but they are just as good. Marco's cake was huge and had various kinds of fruit on top. We sang the Italian and American birthday songs again except this time we sang the French and German versions as well. I guess this is what happens when Italians consume a lot of wine on a Saturday afternoon. They even brought out a little espresso machine. I love coffee and I had some but they were trying to get me to put some Italian liquor into it. I wasn't falling for that trick. When I went back to the dessert table, the grandmother bamboozled me into a huge bowl of pudding and some more cake. Marco was right when he said they would be concerned if you didn't have food in front of you.

The biggest surprise of the afternoon came when an hour after dessert, Marco said that they were going to serve dinner soon. We just ate all afternoon and they were going to eat again. This was definitely the best food I have ever had at a birthday party but we had made other plans for dinner. We had no idea that the party would last that long. I was sad that we had to leave early.

All in all it was an awesome experience. This summer I got to experience an Italian wedding and now I experience an Italian birthday. The Italians definitely know how to throw a party.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Swiss Fast Food

I love to eat and I love the food in Lugano. Italian food is probably my favorite type of food which is perfect because of the Italian culture here. Even though I love the cuisine, there is something to be said for a good old American meal. The golden arches are known world wide and are a symbol of American culture. Fast food in Lugano is very limited. We don't have Taco Bell (my favorite), Wendy's, KFC, White Castle etc. Our choices include McDonald's or Burger King. Since the Burger King here is hit or miss, the biggest decision we have to make is whether to go to the McDonald's by the highway or the one downtown.

The menus at the restaurants bring an air of familiarity because the food is basically the same. We have the standards like the Big Mac, Whopper, cheeseburgers, and chicken nuggets. To make it even better, the fries at both restaurants are exactly the same. One particular thing I enjoy is that McDonald's has seasonal Swiss sandwiches. Earlier this year they had an excellent raclette sandwich.

While there are many similarities there are a few HUGE differences. I'll start with the beverages. Fast food restaurants only have one size for pop and they don't like to put ice in the cup. If your room temperature beverage didn't quench your thirst then you have to trek it back up the counter and order another because there are no free refills. Also, if you aren't in the mood for pop or water then you can enjoy a nice cold beer with your value meal. In my 4 years here I have never taken that option and I don't know if I ever will.

In America we enjoy ketchup with our fries and take the free ketchup pumps for granted. Here in Lugano they charge 20 cents per ketchup packet and 20 cents for mayonnaise packets. It blew my mind the first time I had to pay for ketchup. Not seeing a dollar menu in McDonald's also blew my mind. Since 2001, a dollar menu has been a familiar sight for me. I could enjoy a great meal for 5 bucks. No such thing exists here. If they have anything, they have a 2.50 menu. Right now the franc (swiss currency) and the dollar are almost the same so it is very easy to compare. A cheeseburger will cost you 2.50 and a Big Mac value meal will set you back around 12 bucks. This is not good for me because when I go out to eat I just don't get a value meal. I have to get some extra nuggets or a cheeseburger or some type of dessert. Over here that will cost around 23 bucks. For that type of money at home I can take Liz out to Chili's and eat a really good meal with free refills and all the ketchup we want.

Take Sunday night for example. We just beat a surging Lausanne team at home and are one step closer to making the playoffs. My teammates and I went out for a drink to celebrate. When the night was winding down we were all pretty hungry so Ross, Kam, Liz and I decided to listen to our stomachs and head over to McDonald's. We went through the drive through and our order was taken. I don't remember what everyone else got but I remember getting a Big Mac meal, a cheeseburger and a 6 piece nugget. I assume Kam and Ross ordered something similar. Our total was $85! We could have fed an army if we would have been in the states. It probably would have been more but we took it to go so we didn't have to pay for ketchup.

I have to say it was well worth it though. Best meal I have had in a long time. Thank god for all the McDonald's all over the world!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

3rd Round vs Nyon

We had a great 2 weeks off from games and had some intense practices during that time. We got down to work and put some new plays in and worked on our defense a little. Practice can get boring though and it was definitely time to get back to work. Our first game back from the break was against Nyon. They are one of the most talented teams in the league and one of the big budget teams as well. They have big names like Austin Johnson from Oklahoma and former Big Ten Player of the Year Terence Dials as well as a fantastic supporting cast. Despite their depth and money I felt like we could really go out and compete with them and win the game.

We expected a 5 and a half hour bus ride so left at 9:30 in the morning for a 5:30 game. What we didn't expect though was all the snow after the San Gottardo tunnel. It was snowing extremely hard and delayed our arrival. At one point we were even stopped for 45 minutes. There was talk on the bus of delaying the game and playing it at another date because of the weather and traffic but we forged ahead.

After a 7 hour bus ride we pulled up to Nyon's gym and had 30 minutes to warm up before the game started. This was in conflict with my usual routine. I like to get on the court early so I can get a feel for the rims and the court. I go through a series of post moves, short jumpers and free throws before getting ready for the game. Because of the time constraint I couldn't do my routine. When I finally did get out for warm ups I was stiff and my legs felt tight. I eventually loosened up but I noticed that the rims were tight and not very giving.

When the game tipped off I was ready to go and very excited. We were finally playing after 2 weeks off and I was expecting to win. Unfortunately, we had our worst offensive game of the year. We shot very poorly from the floor and I was also bad. My first shot was a right handed jump hook off of a dish from Dan that I can make in my sleep, except this time it rimmed out. My second shot was a left handed offensive rebound shot off the glass that rimmed out. My 3rd shot was a 2 dribble with the right spin back with the left that rimmed out. I finally made my 4th shot (contested lay up, go figure) off of a pass from Kam.

We didn't get any help from the officials in the first half either. I was called for the worst foul I have ever been called for in my life. My man went to screen on the ball and I stayed in the paint like I was supposed to. The man with the ball dribbled right into me and handed me the ball. Apparently this is a foul in Switzerland as the ref blew the whistle. I picked up a second foul soon after and found myself on the bench for the rest of the first quarter and well into the second. A minute later, Ross picked up his second foul and joined me on the bench.

Despite poor shooting and foul trouble we were only down by 9 at the half. During the intermission we talked about giving up too many points in the paint and about our mistakes on offense. If we could cut both of those down then we had a chance.

Apparently, we didn't have a chance. We continued our poor shooting all throughout the second half and Nyon continued to score in the paint. Nyon won the game 80-58. They responded well to the pressure put on them after suffering 2 straight defeats to teams below them in the standings.

As for myself, I just need to get back to work. A good friend of mine told me that missing easy shots is mental. I have to re-focus and get back on track and have a great game against Lausanne next Sunday. The game against Lausanne is a must win now. They are below us in the standings and if we want to make the playoffs then we need to win. As long as we bring it with the intensity we are capable of then it should be a good game with a good result.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Adventures of the Boss: Part 1

I am proudly from Michigan. My whole family lives in Michigan and it was the only place I knew. When it was time to pick a college I chose Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Moving to Wisconsin was hard for me. Not only was I 360 miles from home but I had to get used to funny accents as well as people using words like "soda" instead of pop and "bubbler" instead of drinking fountain (I still don't understand that one.) I felt like I was in another world when I saw people wearing green and yellow Packer gear and thinking it actually looked good. I think Honolulu blue and silver look a whole lot better!

If moving to a different state was hard for me then moving to another country was even harder. Simple acts like going to get a haircut were a big ordeal. I just stopped going one year because the girl I went to could never get my hair the way Bob could. I found myself using sign language as much as possible and even acting deaf once just so I didn't have to talk to someone. True story.

Going to the grocery store is quite the experience. Not every product has a picture and the words on the label are in a foreign language. You just kind of have to rely on looks but this is not always the best thing to do. On my very first trip to the store I could not find milk for my cereal. I asked one of my teammates and he had to show me where it was. I was expecting a 2 gallon jug in a refrigerator but instead I saw a pack of 4 one liter boxes sitting at room temperature. Definitely very different.

This brings me to my first story in the Adventures of the Boss. I have a teammate who is in his first year of playing basketball in Europe and going through all the same things that I went through. I try to help him out as much as possible but sometimes I'm just not there. I won't disclose his name here but for the sake of the story I will just call him the Boss or Boss for short.

I will preface the story by saying The Boss is very intelligent and graduated from an Ivy League university. This could have happened to anyone, but probably not. Boss doesn't speak any Italian and had the same difficulties I had at the grocery store. As anyone knows, when the weather starts to get colder, your skin starts to get drier. Well, Boss's skin was getting dry at the first sign of cold weather so he decided a trip to the store was necessary to get some lotion.

Now, the Boss doesn't know how to say lotion in Italian so he just went off of looks. He knew what a bottle of lotion looks like in the states so he bought something that looked similar. When he got home he rubbed the lotion on his face. This was a daily procedure but something was going wrong. After 3 weeks his face was starting to burn. To fight off the burning, Boss put more lotion on but to no success. The burning was getting worse and his skin was starting to crack.

Something had to be done. The Boss jumped on Google Translate to find out what the heck was going on with his lotion. The translation was not what he expected but he was relieved when he found out. Instead of using lotion, the Boss was using hand soap. He was just relieved that his face wasn't melting off.

It just goes to show you that living overseas is not as easy as living at home. Here is the soap bottle that Boss thought was lotion.

Funny Things In Europe: Real Estate Agency?

A couple of weeks ago, Dan, Liz and I decided to take a trip to Basel. It was a great day and a great trip. While we were walking around the city we noticed the Condomeria store on one of the side streets . I have an immature mind and immediately thought that Condomeria was an adult store. Apparently Dan is more mature and said that it was like a real estate agency specializing in condos. I said no way and the only way to solve the argument was to actually check it out.

I decided against posting the pictures of the more explicit objects in the windows. This blog is not rated R but the look on Dan's face says it all. Definitely not a real estate agency.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brutta Partita

"Bruta partita." That was how our Technical Director described our game against Geneva on February 20. It means ugly match in English and I have to agree with him. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was blogging about how important it was to beat Geneva on the road? Yeah, well it was an important game but we kind of threw the win away when we played them in the friendly confines of Palamondo.

It is safe to say that if we would have beat the Geneva Devils we would be a lot closer to clinching a playoff spot. Unfortunately, it appears it will come down to the final games of the season for SAM Massagno now.

It is funny because we started the game out so well. We were clicking with our pick and roll and with the defense. Dan was scoring at will and we went into half-time with a 17 point advantage and only holding them to 31 points while we had 48.

It was definitely a tale of two halves. At half-time we could hear the opposing coach screaming at his team and telling them what they needed to do in the 2nd half. We could also hear the players respond to their coach with enthusiasm. Maybe we came out to cocky and thought we had the game in the bag, I don't know. I do know though that we came out AWFUL! We only scored 6 points in the 3rd quarter while Geneva scored 26. All of our shots were missing. It was like the stars had aligned for Geneva and it was going to be their game. I even missed a wide open lay-up. I haven't missed an open lay-up all year but apparently I was going to miss against Geneva. We also got away from the things we were doing so well in the first half like moving the ball and defense.

We played the 4th quarter even but the damage had already been done in the 3rd and we weren't able to recover. A friend of mine told me after the game that we can't win them all. He followed that up by saying that we can't lose them all either. I don't know how it applied but it at least made me laugh a little.

I think the worst part of the loss is that we don't have a game for another 2 weeks. It is always tough to practice with a bad taste in your mouth. I didn't sleep for two nights after the game. We could have enjoyed our time off but now in the back of our minds we are thinking about how we just blew the game to Geneva. With the loss we are only 1 game ahead of them in the standings.

I hope the loss will serve as a little bit of a wake up call to the team. Hopefully it will bring us back down to earth and realize what our faults are as a team. I am sure we will fix them with some good old fashioned hard work in the gym. We have to fix them or the rest of the season is going to be rough for us. I have confidence though. Nothing bad can come from hard work.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Oh geez! I do not even know how to start this post. Maybe I should do a little explaining. Carnevale is a festival that is held in Europe. All of the towns around here have their own festival but the big one is held in Bellinzona twenty minutes away. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced in America. I imagine that it is a mix between Halloween and Mardi Gras but I have never been to Mardi Gras so I don't know personally. Carnevale has Pagan origins. It was originally a Pagan festival where people were supposed to let themselves be free and have fun. It was also the final hurrah of winter before it became spring. From what I can tell, it is celebrated today by costumes and dancing.

My first Carnevale experience was 4 years ago with my teammates Edwin and Zay. We were extremely bored and had nothing to do on a Thursday night. Edwin had suggested going so we decided to give it a shot. Zay drove the 20 minutes from Lugano to Bellinzona and we were immediately impressed with the set up. The whole town was completely shut down. The castles were illuminated and dressed up. Tents were set up all around the city serving refreshments and food. There were also tents set up as mini clubs where you can go in and dance the night away. To top it all off, everyone was dressed up in costumes. The coolest part though was the marching bands that play in the streets. They play all kinds of fun songs and have really cool drum lines, but not nearly as good as Brighton High Schools. Though if it were Brighton High School you probably wouldn't be able to dance. Needless to say, the night was a complete blast and my first Carnevale experience was awesome!!!!!

My second Carnevale had a lot to live up to. Last year I was back in Ticino with SAM Massagno. When February rolled around I started looking forward to the annual festival. I told my American teammates, Brody and Noah, about it. They seemed skeptical at first but once they were there it was a blast. Brody also had some friends visiting to partake in the festivities. It is always nice to have visitors and they were awesome guys so it just added to the fun. The picture is Vinz, Brody myself and Noah. Apparently I was very excited to see a 6'4" grown man dressed up as a donkey.

As good as the first two times were, I think that this year was the best. If you have been reading the blog, then you know that this has been a rough year for us filled with many ups and downs. We do not go out very often and this was a perfect time for us to just get away from basketball and enjoy ourselves. Kameron Gray (pg from Oakland, CA) played for Lugano last year so he knew what to expect but Ross Morin (pf from Yale) and Dan had no idea. About two weeks before the festival we started planning on what to wear. We knew we wanted to dress up but we didn't want to spend a lot of money. The easiest thing to do was to buy a mask and a silly looking hat to go along with it. It was a group thing so we all bought the same mask but the hats were up to each person. Liz even participated and got a mask herself!

Once we had the masks, all we had to do was wait for the right night to go. We headed out on the last night (Tuesday) because we figured the crowds would be smaller and it was the night that was farthest from a game. We hopped on the train and were ready to have some fun.

When we got there we immediately met up with some teammates. We play with some great guys and they are really fun to hang out with. The costumes they were wearing were also hilarious. One of our coaches was dressed up as a baby and the other was dressed up in some tight black pants with butterflies on them and wearing an afro.

We spent the night walking around, dancing and just taking everything in. It is such an awesome experience playing and living in Europe. Sometimes, you just have to step back and let yourself become a part of things.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shout out to Smooth Action

It goes without saying but the financial crisis has affected the whole world. All sectors of the economy have been hit and professional sports are not excluded. Many European professional sport franchises rely on sponsors and local businesses to fill the salaries for their players. That's why our jerseys are far from looking like NBA teams and closer resemble a billboard on a highway. When the crisis hit, the last thing that companies/businesses thought about doing was sponsoring the local basketball club. Because of this many successful basketball players have sat at home this year waiting for a call. Teams just have not had the budget to sign as many players as they had in previous seasons.

I was blessed to get a job quickly this year but unfortunately one of my best friends was not. Marcus Jackson and I developed a close relationship while at Marquette. We both played the same position and competed with each other for minutes but the battles that ensued on the court stayed there. Maybe it is because we were going through the exact same thing that bonded us together or maybe it is because Marcus is one of the nicest people I know but our friendship grew. Smooth Action (as far as I know this is a self appointed nick name, he claims otherwise) was a part of my wedding this summer and I had the pleasure of being in his as well.

Marcus was an excellent rebounder in college and he has continued that success in his professional career. He has dominated every league in rebounding. I remember looking up his stats last year and at one point he was averaging 15 rebounds per game in Holland while the guy in second only had 9.

That is why I was shocked to see Marcus at home for so long, but as my father always says, good things happen to good people. Marcus just signed a contract with Namika Lahti in Finland. One of his teammates is former Wisconsin Badger Ray Nixon but I'm not going to hold it against him. Only kidding.

I am really happy for Marcus and his family and wish him luck the rest of the way. He also has a blog that you can check out here. In his blog he writes about basketball and a new health beverage he is marketing. It is good stuff and is worth it to check it out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day Off

Days off are hard to come by here in Massagno. Because of the make up of our team we have completely random days off. Half of our team is made up of American professionals and the other half is made up of Swiss guys who have day jobs. The Swiss players will go to their 9-5 during the day and then go to practice at night. Some of them even drive 40 minutes each way every day. When we play on Sundays, the team will have Saturday off of practice because the Swiss guys would like a day off to themselves on the weekend. Just because the team will have the day off doesn't mean that I take the day off. I will either go and get some shots up or will go to the fitness center and do some conditioning.

Our schedule last week was pretty intense and I was pretty worn out. We played Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday with no days off in between and two of the games were against 2 of the top 3 teams in the league. Coach gave us Sunday off but he decided we needed another day off to make sure we are well rested for our game against Geneva on Saturday.

We definitely relaxed today. It was one of those days where I/we realized we are living the good life. My apartment has a great balcony overlooking the the Swiss Alps. Last year, my teammates and I would always sit on the balcony to eat, drink, surf the internet and just enjoy life. The weather has been a little cold for that this year but we decided today was a good day to re start the tradition. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the birds were chirping. We might as well enjoy what Swizzy has to offer.

After lunch, Ross and Kam came up to the room and we just sat on the balcony and hung out. We talked about a lot of things but we never once talked about basketball. The season is long and sometimes it is just nice to get away from it. I think we need that every now and then. It felt nice to enjoy a Coke (I have a serious pop addiction right now, I need help) and sit back and relax.

As we were sitting out there, Liz took the picture of us. I think it is pretty awesome and you can even get a glimpse of the sweet team Kappa jacket I am rocking. Good times here in Massagno.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Adventures at the Doctor and Physical Therapist

After 4 years of playing in Switzerland I have come to accept the medicine here. I was very skeptical at first because of the whole unfamiliarity of it all. From the language barrier to different practices it took awhile to get used to the whole thing. I am completely comfortable with it now but every time I get a medical or physical therapy treatment it is quite the experience.

At the beginning of this year I had a calf problem. After around 15 minutes of playing/practicing, I would feel an intense pain in my leg. Sometimes it was so bad that I had to stop playing. Something needed to be done so I asked the training staff if I could see a doctor to figure out what was wrong. The team doctor here is an extremely nice guy but his english is not that great. After explaining to him my problem, I expected him to tell me that I strained my calf somehow or maybe tore something. Instead he told me that my muscle is "tired" and said I needed some physical therapy for it. I don't know what he wanted to say but I am pretty sure my doctor from back home would not tell me my leg was just tired.

It is very frustrating when words get lost in translation. The word "sore" for example. I was talking to the team massage therapist and I told him that my back was really sore. He did not know what I meant and wanted me to try and explain this to him. I told him it is like something hurting but it doesn't hurt. He still did not understand so I just told him my back hurt and then got a massage. Sometimes I just have to take little defeats here and there.

It seems like the most popular treatment here is just a simple massage. A couple years ago I rolled my ankle in practice and the next day I went to the physical therapist. I was expecting to ice and maybe get some electric stim on my ankle. Instead I got a painful massage on my ankle for 20 minutes. I would expect to get massage on my thigh or back but I have never heard of massaging an ankle. I am not saying I disagree with it, I am just saying I have never heard of it.

The massages tend to be painful too. When I had a little tendinitis in my knee the physical therapist was poking around and moving my knee every which way. I think they like inflicting pain on me so they do it any way they can. They even have a little tool to make it more painful. It looks kind of like a hook and they use it to dig deep into the muscle. Not much fun for me.

Another strange treatment I can only describe as acupuncture. It involves moving a needle in and out of the muscle. If it sounded like a sprained ankle massage hurt, then this hurts 100 times more. I have had this procedure done twice, once when I pulled my hamstring and one time this year for my calf. The physical therapist picked out where I pulled my hamstring and then put the needle right in. Even though there was a lot of pain, my hamstring felt better a couple of days later. I wish I could say the same thing for my calf. When he stuck the needle in my calf my whole foot felt like it was on fire and I told him to stop immediately. Even though it only worked once for me, I would still endorse this treatment because I have seen it work many times. The whole key is just to open your mind to the procedure.

Four years ago I had another procedure involving needles. I was experiencing back spasms when I played for Lugano. I went to get weekly massages to try and loosen the muscles up. When those didn't work, the physical therapist pricked my back with a syringe filled with medicine. After 20 pricks he would be done and then cover my back with a bandage. I had this done maybe 5 times. I have no idea if it worked or not but I would be open to trying it again.

I am sure that my adventures with the doctor and physical therapist aren't over but I just have to keep an open mind to them all and take everything in stride.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Game vs Meyrin Round 3

Every time SAM Massagno takes the court, two former Marquette alums (myself and Dan Fitzgerald) are playing. The bonds formed between teammates are strong and lifelong friendships are formed. Playing with Dan has been a great and special opportunity for me. I was only able to play with Dan for 2 years in college and one of those years he was a redshirt transfer. In those 2 years we developed a great friendship and Dan was actually one of the best men at my wedding this past summer. I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to play with him again. This season has had its fair share of highs and lows and I am glad that I have a friend to share it with.

Karon Bradley is another guy I played with in college who happens to be playing in Switzerland. We played at Marquette together for 2 years. KB was/is a stand up guy and someone that I connected with immediately, even if he is from Texas. In those 2 years we had a lot of great times highlighted by the Final Four trip in 2003 as well as a trip to Italy to play for the Nacel All Stars. Unfortunately, Karon transferred to Wichita State after our sophomore year but our friendship has continued on. The transfer worked out well for him as he enjoyed conference championships and NCAA tournament success with the Shockers.

On February 10, three former Marquette players took the court and played against each other for the 3rd time this season. Dan and myself for SAM Massagno and Karon for Meyrin Grand Sacconex. The season series was split at 1-1 with each team owning a win on the road and bragging rights were on the line this time. While it is awesome playing with former teammates it is weird playing against them. I wanted Karon to do well but I also wanted to wipe the floor with his team.

Karon is still the same old guy. He is a killer on the court (one of the top scorers in the Swiss league) and extremely nice off of it. We had trouble containing him on defense because of his exceptional athletic ability. KB ended the game with 15 points and 8 assists. Unfortunately for him, SAM came away with the win 104-94.

The meeting was most likely the last time we will play against each other this year. After the game we had a chance to catch up with Karon. It was great to see him again and I am really happy for him and the success he has had. We had another chance to get a picture together because the one from back in November did not turn out so good.

This one is a whole lot better even though we probably could have gotten a better background. Just 3 guys doing what they love to do.

Until next time.