Inspirational International Basketball experiences in Lithuania and France
From Ben Russell, BTM Director:
“In 2007 I attended a tournament with my Barking Abbey team at the Sabonis School in Lithuania, which was an incredibly eye-opening experience for us on the court. The tournament featured some of Lithuania’s best teams – we were considered England’s best academy and we finished 7th out of 8 teams, showing how high the standard of basketball really was.
There were several reasons as to why we simply couldn’t keep up with the Lithuanian teams, the primary one being that they moved the ball so well. The way each team shared the basketball so unselfishly was inspiring to watch, and painful to play against! We were lost against their tremendous ball movement and the accuracy of their 3-point shooting, which was outstanding. Plus the Lithuanian teams played so tough both inside and outside making our lives very difficult at both ends of the floor.
I think a lot of the Lithuanian prowess stems from their basketball culture – I remember seeing a team of 6 year-olds being drilled like they were men. They were using a 10 foot basket and the coach was pushing them hard, but none of them were complaining or whining about it and were just getting on with it.
Playing against such a high caliber of player and team taught us so much as a group and exposed some of our glaring weaknesses both as a team and as individuals. I was truly inspired and headed straight for the gym as soon as we arrived back in London, eager to put what I’d learned into practice.”
From BTM Director Tom Ward –
“In 1999 at the age of 11 I went with my Brighton Cougars team to Arras, France, where we took part in an incredible two-day u12 tournament that I will remember for a lifetime. We stayed with host families and I was placed with a family that spoke no English, which alongside my minimal French made communication very challenging! However, they were very nice people and took care of me during the 3 nights that I was in town.
The tournament itself was amazing – we were exposed to some very high-level French teams that played with tremendous speed and aggression, with every game being a fierce battle. We were a strong British team for our age, but we soon realized that the game was being played at a completely different level in France. We bonded as a group and fought hard, reaching the semi-finals of the tournament only to lose out to the eventual winners.
The tournament had been played on very sporting terms, and in the tournament presentation we were applauded as a group by all of the other teams who had all been very friendly to us as visitors to their country. I was lucky enough to be awarded MVP of the tournament and was given a large silver shield, and asked to say a few words in French on stage in front of all the teams. All I managed was “Bonjour” :/
The French experience stuck with me for years down the line, and inspired me to pursue a basketball career that would one day take me overseas, first to the United States for high school and college basketball, and to Spain for a brief professional career. You truly can’t put a price on an experience like the Arras trip, which benefits the individual and the team in so many incredible ways, and it helped shape me into the player and person I became.”