Russell Hoops European Tour to Porto ’18!
It was an early start for most at Chauncy School for the coach journey down to Gatwick as we set off for this years European tour to Portugal. A group of 40 players across 4 squads were under the watchful eye of our enthusiastic coaching staff. Special mention to Bertie Hill who wasn’t able to travel due to injury, we hope the recovery is going well and you’re back on court quickly! After some shopping at the airport it was time to board for the quick 2 hour flight to Porto to be greeted by Josh Merrington, Head Coach for SunLive Basketball Academy and GB U20 Men’s assistant coach.
The schedule was going to be full, as we attempted to give the boys as much exposure to European culture and style of play as possible. The early flights gave the boys some down time in the early afternoon around the pool and snooker table. Shout out to Coach PJ and Alex Omole for remaining unbeaten on the table throughout the afternoon! After a bite to eat it was on to the court and a first chance for the boys to have a look at the facilities Sangalhos and SunLive had to offer! They didn’t disappoint, with the incredible facility boasting 2 gyms consisting of 3 courts and 2 show courts! After a light session to blow away the cobwebs, it was off to Sangalhos hotel for our evening meal and welcome talks from BTM rep Mark Strickland, Josh and Russell Hoops Directors Jack Burnell and PJ Russell. The talks were received well by all the players, before the group took a journey back to our hotel for a well needed sleep ahead of a long first basketball day.
An early 7.30 wake up before an 8.15am breakfast was the beginning to a first long day of basketball. The boys enjoyed a continental breakfast with toast, croissants and a mixture of cereals and juices to fill themselves for the morning of practice. It was then onto the coach for the 15 minute trip across to the Sangalhos basketball facility.
Coach Jack began the day setting standards for the boys, followed by a whole group warm-up led by John Mogaji and Conor O’Reilly. Practice was split with all four teams receiving some time on both the half court and full court. All four teams were put through their paces by Coaches Emma, PJ, Jack and Josh in a tough first team practice for everyone. A short break was well received by all before our first guest coaching clinic from Coach Rui Costa. Coach Rui is the regional coach for Porto and is unbeaten in 3 years with his team! This was our boys first exposure to the Portuguese style of play with the sessions primary focus on decision making under pressure. The players battled hard in an extremely mentally tough session with Coach Rui explaining that the progressions would take at least 2 months for his players to master giving an insight into the technicality of the drills the boys were undertaking.
Following a tough morning on court, the boys were happy to get some food down them and chill around the pool as they allowed their bodies some recovery time, before heading back to the courts for the evenings games against local team Sangalhos.
The games started well with two big wins for U14 team 2 and the U17 team. Special mention to Owain Kimber for an exceptional performance in the first game. Following this was the turn of U14 team 1 and U16 teams. A great performance by the U14 team 1 with another big win in a much closer game for our U14 teams, but a tough first game saw our U16 team go down by 12 points against an extremely strong Sangalhos team. All the boys battled hard and left everything on the floor and the coaches were all pleased.
Following an ‘agreement’ made by the coaches prior to tip, Coach Graham agreed to entertain the boys if we were able to secure a win… 3 wins lead to a great sing along on the journey home from the Elvis impersonator himself! After some food at Sangalhos hotel, it was back on the coach for the journey back to our hotel and lights out for some well-earned rest.
Similar to Day 2, Day 3 was all about the basketball, and after another breakfast at our hotel it was on to the coach and down to Sangalhos for another morning of team practice. In a different set up to the previous day, both U14 teams practiced together meaning all age groups had a full court for the entirety of their practice. This allowed all teams to work hard to improve on areas of weaknesses from the previous day.
This session was followed by another tough guest coaching clinic this time from Coach Sergio Silva, currently coaching in the top women’s league in Portugal. This session worked the boys both physically and mentally, similar to Coach Rui, ensuring all players got a high number of repetitions in each drill. Post-session the boys were feeling extremely tired and craving their downtime around the pool. We ate another great lunch at Sangalhos and it was straight back to the hotel for the boys to relax.
Our games ran slightly differently for the next two days, with our U14 teams playing on this evening and our U16 and U17 boys playing the following evening. With this in mind, we all jumped on board the coach and travelled to our first away trip of the tour against Gafanha. Following his impressive performance last night, Coach Graham was again gifted the opportunity to provide our players and staff with pre-game entertainment, and it didn’t take long before the whole coach was joining in.
On arrival to Gafanha the U14 team 2 played first before it was team 1’s chance to shine. Following an extremely strong start, Coach PJ ensured all players received large amounts of playing time. The game concluded and U14 team 2 had secured a huge win against the Gafanha team. Special mention goes to Harry Lupton who performed well during one of the opportunities he had to play with the U14 team 2. We were strongly supported by all U16 and U17 players who sat in the stands singing and cheering their younger teammates on.
Following the conclusion of the first game, it was team 1 and Coach Emma’s opportunity to play. Another positive start enabled Coach Emma to ensure that her players also saw a lot of the court securing another great win. Special mention from the second game goes to Isaac Ssekamatte for scoring his first basket of the tour with the assist from Keanu Ray. After a quick stop for dinner at Sangalhos, we headed back to the hotel where the players had a slightly later lights out time due to the lay-in on our cultural day tomorrow.
Day 4 and a welcomed lay-in for everyone today on our cultural day, meaning that wake up wasn’t until 9am! All the boys were down for breakfast looking refreshed and re-energized for our trip into Aveiro town and beach. We stopped off for a walk around the town and shopping mall, which gave a chance for the boys to buy any gifts for relatives at home. After a stroll around, everyone grabbed a bite to eat before we headed over to the beach where half of the boys decided to take up the opportunity of a surf lesson. The other boys enjoyed the free time having a runaround on the beach and enjoying the music that Coach PJ and Sara were playing as “Master DJ’s”.
After the surf lesson finished, the boys were rounded up and we headed back to the hotel for the U16 and U17 teams to change ready for their evening games, as we travelled for the last time of the tour. Both teams had comfortable wins with U16s coming away with a 35 point win and U17s coming away with a 25 point win. Special mention of the night goes to Alfie Hill who following an injury he sustained the previous day, was unable to partake in basketball for the rest of the trip but still sat courtside assisting Coach Jack and supporting his teammates. We headed back to Sangalhos for dinner in the evening before a quiz run by Coach Graham.
In our final day of the tour we reversed the order of play, starting with our guest coaching clinic from Coach Rui Nazario where we worked on footwork and decision making under pressure. After a tough session the boys went into their final team practice of the tour, which was slightly lighter than previous days as the boys were suffering from fatigue after a long week of basketball.
Some downtime was welcomed by the boys before we headed back to Sangalhos Stadium for the final games of the tour, where U17s and U14 team 2 were up first. In a much closer run game the U14 team 2 came away with the win, with the score not reflecting the way either team battled, and the U17s being run extremely close coming away with a 5 point win after trailing for the majority of the game.
It was down to the U14 team 1 and U16 team to finish the tour in style and they didn’t disappoint with the U14 team 1 coming away with another great win for the players to round their tour off. The U16 boys were in a scrap until the final whistle, exchanging baskets before the boys pulled away to take a 10 point win.
After the successful night on the court, resident entertainer Coach Graham was on hand to ensure the boys were not disappointed with the entertainment as we headed back for dinner and our end of tour presentations. Speeches from all coaches were warmly received from the exhausted players, who were grateful for the opportunity they received. Congratulations to our tour award winners:
U14 Team 1 Coaches Player – Keanu Ray
U14 Team 2 Coaches Player – Caden Clarke
U16 – Jack Harris
U17 – Conor O’Reilly
Tour Most Improved Player – Joshua Walton
Tour Hustler Award – Alex Omole
Tour Sportsperson Award – John Mogaji
An EXTREMELY early 3 am wake up started off the day, as we headed to the airport for our return flight to Gatwick. After a slight delay we were off, which went unnoticed by the boys as they were all fast asleep for the entire flight to Gatwick. After we landed and made it through the airport it was time to say goodbye to some of the boys who were being collected directly from Gatwick, while the rest of us jumped on the coach back to Chauncy. The traffic on the M25 offered an extra 45 minutes sleep to the boys, who were all passed out before we arrived at Chauncy!
A massive that you to Josh and Lucas from Sunlive Group who went above and beyond to ensure that the boys had an amazing time, and helped out organising everything for us whilst we were with them! A huge thank you to all of our staff, including Coach Graham, Coach Emma, Coach Jack and Coach PJ for their hard work both on and off the court delivering the sessions and supporting some of the players to and from physio sessions and hospital visits. Sara Clarke was an AWESOME Tour Mum, looking after all the boys and ensuring they had lovely fresh kit to wear for practices and games. Finally, to Mark and BTM Basketball for all their support off the court and behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly and handling all communications with clubs and contacts whilst we were there! Tours would not be the same without our amazing staff and we are grateful to each and every one of you for giving up your time to come and help support the players on a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Until next year….