In basketball, traveling is a violation that occurs when a player with the ball moves one or both feet illegally. In August, the group went on the most wide-ranging tour the men’s basketball team has experienced, visiting four countries—China, Egypt, Austria, and Germany (plus a breakfast layover in Turkey)—in three continents.
A learning opportunity
Ducey has coached men’s basketball at the University of Redlands for 13 years and has led past teams to France, Ireland, and New Zealand. The National Collegiate Athletic Association allows athletic teams to go on travel tours every three years, so that’s how often Ducey plans a trip. He calls it “a great learning opportunity for my guys.” Planning every three years allows each player—whether a first-year, a transfer, or a junior—to go on a trip at least once.
Ducey knows first-hand about the benefits of leaving your comfort zone and developing “a better picture of what this world is all about,” since he traveled to 12 countries in Europe alone after graduating from the U of R in 1978. This year’s two-week, around-the-world jaunt was especially significant because most of the players on his team had never been abroad.
Team bonding was a significant perk. Brit Foster ’20, a forward who recorded each day of the trip in a diary, knew it was a story to tell his kids and grandkids one day. He said being with his teammates 24/7 helped him learn to communicate better. “[During games] our coaches give us a plan, and we have to go execute it,” he says. “Getting a lot closer to our coaches helps with getting the message across to one another as teammates.” It also brought him out of his shell: “The patience I learned just from being around everyone else all the time was so important.”
A year and a half of preparation
It takes a year and a half to plan a travel tour and costs between $2,000 and $3,500 per player. Ducey raises money in various ways. (This year, thanks to the continued support of generous basketball alumni and friends, he was able to use his development budget.) After nailing down the countries to visit, Ducey uses his network, including fellow alumni and friends from various international basketball associations, to organize the exhibition games with coaches in different time zones. Former U of R basketball coach Gary Smith was instrumental in organizing the games in Germany.
He also makes sure the players immerse themselves in the culture and history of the countries they’re visiting. In the first week, the team visited Beijing, China, where they played two games with the Western Academy of Beijing men’s basketball team. The U of R coaches also led a coaching clinic in between sightseeing to the First Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square.
Like his teammates, Hass Berry ’20, a shooting guard, is grateful for his experience: “I got to see so many things in different countries. Most people don’t get to do that in their lifetimes.” Berry, a race and ethnic studies major, said that just experiencing first-hand how different the United States was from other countries helped inform his perspective. “Water, for instance, is so accessible in America,” he says. “It’s not so in other countries. It makes you not take certain things for granted.”
Playing across continents
After seven days in China, the team traveled to Egypt at the invitation of Ducey’s former tennis teammate Hadi Rahimi ’78, who was an All-American at U of R. The students saw the pyramids, rode camels, and learned about the history of Egypt. The eighth wonder of the world was Foster’s highlight: “It’s one thing to see the pyramids in a history book or pictures, but when you’re standing next to one, it’s amazing.”
After Egypt, the team headed to Europe, where it traveled between Munich, Germany, and the U of R’s international campus in Salzburg, Austria. The coaches drove two minivans and a station wagon on the Autobahn and communicated via walkie-talkies. Ducey says one of the highlights in Germany was visiting the Eagle’s Nest on Obersalzberg Mountain, which offered a 360-degree view of the Bavarian Alps. From the peak, the group could see both Germany and Austria. The team also played three hard-fought games against professional basketball teams FC Bayern Munich, TSV Oberhaching, and Baskets Vilsbiburg (University of Redlands won this game 90 to 70). The Bulldogs finished their tour with an overall winning record of 3-2.
Despite the months of planning, a bit of inclement weather, and a wayward camel, Ducey says the trip was well worth it: “It’s good for the team. It sets a tone for the rest of their lives.”
Bridging cultures with basketball
Kyle Milligan ’15, traveled to New Zealand with Ducey’s team three years ago. Now the assistant men’s basketball coach at Chaminade University of Honolulu, he says their trip helped his U of R team build toward a bigger goal: “We worked better together during the subsequent seasons. I also realized how global the sport of basketball is. You meet people through the game, and you learn their way of life. It shows how basketball can bring you together with other cultures.”
Years later, Milligan still hasn’t forgotten that trip: “My former teammates and I will talk and say to each other, ‘Can you believe we did that? Can you believe we had that?’”
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