Bristol MET’s Incredible Tour to San Francisco

Posted by on Feb 13, 2019 in Uncategorized | One Comment

This February we hosted the Bristol MET Academy players and coaches in San Francisco, one of the USA’s most exciting cities and home to NBA, NCAA and High School basketball and some incredible city sights. The tour party consisted of BTM rep Tom, coaches Tom, Christian and Gareth and players Nassim, Yusuf, Marvin, Daniel, KJ, Finley, Samir, Nathan, Hasan, Marc, Louie T and Louie W.

Day 1

The players and coaches took a minibus from Bristol to London Heathrow in the very early hours, arriving at the airport at 4.30 am where they met with BTM rep Tom. After moving swiftly through check-in and passport control they relaxed and grabbed some breakfast, before heading to the departure gate. The boys were understandably very excited, with this being many of the players first US experience, and some of their first time on a plane.

After a 10 hour flight the group touched down at San Francisco airport and made it through customs, heading to pick up the two 15-seater minibuses that would serve as transport throughout the tour. After an hour drive to Vallejo where the hotel was located, the team headed to the famous Chick-Fil-A for their first taste of American burgers, where they enjoyed a large meal before the evening activity of watching a US high school game.

The group arrived at Vallejo High in time to catch some of the JV game, as well as finding a space to sit in preparation for the ensuing “senior night” Varsity game between Vallejo and local rivals St. Patrick – St. Vincent. The atmosphere from the home crowd was fantastic, however the visitors grabbed the win after making a run in the early second half that put the game out of reach.

After a very long day the boys were understandably exhausted by the end of the game, including Samir who fell asleep multiple times throughout the contest, and were driven back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2

The boys gathered for breakfast at the hotel, which featured multiple options including eggs, bacon, sausages, waffles, oatmeal, cereal and more. Nassim and Daniel looked particularly excited by the waffles, which they ate after taking a little while to figure out the waffle-making machine.

The groups hopped in the buses and began the journey into San Francisco, which included stopping at the Golden Gate Bridge to snap some photos in front of this amazing landmark. It was then on to Union Square in the city center, from which the team hit Niketown for some much desired retail therapy. After a swift lunch, the boys headed to the cable car which they rode all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf, where Gareth treated the other coaches to some incredible crepes at a local cafe and Christian got the coffees in.

The boys were desperate to check out the Westfield shopping mall, so after a brief photo opportunity at the famous Lombard Street the team hopped back on the cable car, where a short ride took them to the 9-story mall in the heart of downtown. A few hours and several pairs of Nikes later the group was on the bus heading back to the hotel for an early night in anticipation of the first practice of the tour the following morning.

Day 3

The Bristol MET team arrived in Napa for their team practice held at Prolific Prep, one of the most elite high school basketball programs in the country. Prolific Prep routinely sends players on to high-major NCAA D1 schools and professional contracts, with alumni including Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns and Gary Trent Jr. of the Portland Trailblazers. Director of Operations Philippe arrived to greet the team, and a MET practice consisting of skill development, offensive strategy and scrimmage followed.

Practice was ensued by a visit to Subway for some lunch, a brief rest at the hotel and then back on the road to Napa for Game 1 of the tour versus local school Napa Christian Knights.

Bristol MET used their athleticism and skill to jump out to an early lead against the Knights, playing aggressive defense that led to turnovers by the offense and plenty of fast-break opportunities. Finley was dominant at both ends for MET, scoring in a variety of ways around the basket and rebounding the ball well at the defensive end. One of the Knights guards caught fire in the 2nd half, pouring in multiple 3-point shots, but MET clamped down and ran out comfortable winners in their first game. Marvin played great on-ball defense throughout the contest, causing the Napa Christian guards a lot of trouble, and Marc hit some big shots down the stretch including a transition 3 off the dribble.

After the game the team took a trip to the famous Mountain Mikes pizza, where they ate a variety of slices and celebrated Marvin’s 17th birthday!

Day 4

The 4th day of the tour was another intense basketball day, which started with a trip back to Napa for a guest coaching clinic with Golden State Prep Head Coach Ryan Sypkens, a former NCAA D1 and pro player who in his junior year at UC Davis finished 2nd in the nation in 3-point percentage at .461. As well as heading up the GSP program, Ryan also runs Touch Shooting basketball academy, which has helped many players achieve their dreams of playing NCAA and professional basketball through skill development and sports psychology.

Ryan put the boys through a ball-handling and shooting workout, starting with the basic fundamentals and developing to more advanced individual and in-game scenarios. Nathan was locked in throughout the session, showing his strong work ethic, and Marvin showed off his skill-set by managing to score a point against Ryan in a 1 v 1 at the end of practice, with Ryan having to do 2 lengths of the court in a bear crawl as his punishment.

The session was followed by lunch at the famous In n’ Out burger and a brief trip to the Napa Premium Outlets, before a quick rest at the hotel. The team then headed to Vallejo High School for a scrimmage versus their Varsity team. The boys spent a little while hanging out with their opponents before the scrimmage, giving them a chance to connect with the American players before taking the floor for the game. Head Coach Tom Hooper got the boys fired up and they began their battle, which was a fast-paced affair featuring lots of physical play around the basket. KJ and Hasan rebounded well at both ends for the Bristol MET boys, who kept up with the speedy American team.

It was then back on the road to Napa to scrimmage against Golden State Prep, the post-graduate affiliate team of Prolific, which featured several future NCAA D1 level players. Louie T played some wonderful basketball for the MET team, with strong, physical drives to the hoop and solid defense both on and off the ball, Marc scored some key baskets and Louie W received the MVP award for the scrimmage after hitting a “section” winning 3-point shot to earn him the nickname “Big Shot.”

Day 5

The boys joined in with the Golden State Prep practice on the Wednesday morning, where they ran through a variety of skill based drills before finishing the session with a 1 v 1 contest. Nassim and Hasan reached the final, where they were greeted by GSP players Darrion, Lamont, Hunter and Coach Ryan, with the latter showing the young ballers how it’s done, winning the exciting final round against Darrion and Hunter.

A swift trip back to the hotel to shower was followed by lunch at local restaurant Olive Garden, before heading to Oakland and the Oracle Arena for the Golden State Warriors game versus San Antonio Spurs. The boys had the opportunity to watch from courtside seats some of the NBA’s greatest players warming up, with the likes of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Demarcus Cousins taking the floor to get shots up before the game. The contest itself saw the Warriors hammer the underhanded Spurs, but the atmosphere in the arena was fantastic and the boys had a tremendous experience.

Day 6

The boys were absolutely exhausted after a very late arrival home from Oakland, and took the morning off from basketball to enjoy pancakes at the International House of Pancakes aka IHOP. Yusuf made the bold statement that he could eat 14 pancakes, so the coaches challenged him to do so, but unfortunately he only managed 9. There was another tour birthday, with Louie W celebrating his 15th, and he was presented with a birthday cake with the words Louie “Big Shot” West on it in recognition of his game winner on Tuesday evening.

The boys were then driven to St. Mary’s College in Moraga, a beautiful college campus tucked away in the Walnut Creek area. The St. Mary’s College Gaels are one of the top NCAA D1 Men’s Basketball teams, who are renowned for having many international players including several Australians, and compete in the West Coast Conference which features teams such as Gonzaga, BYU and Pepperdine.

The group was given a campus tour, which took them around the academic buildings and common areas of the college to give them a feel for student life at the US university. The boys also had a chance to visit the basketball facilities at the college, including the main court “McKeon Pavilion,” the practice court and the workout facilities, and finally the campus store where they snapped up some St. Mary’s Gaels merch.

There was some time to kill before the 8 pm tip-off, so a trip to Mountain Mikes for pizza was next on the agenda, where the boys ate delicious slices and BTM rep Tom shared his basketball journey with the group.

After pizza it was back to the McKeon Pavilion where the team took their seats to see the Gaels play Pacific in a West Coast Conference match-up. The boys were sat in the student section where there were some very funny characters cheering on the Gaels, and Louie W managed to get himself on the big screen doing the “orange justice” dance. The Gaels pulled away in the 2nd half to grab an exciting win, and the boys left the campus absolutely buzzing from their day.

Day 7

The final full day of the tour started with basketball at Prolific Prep, where an early arrival at the courts led to some sprint races between the players while waiting. There were certainly some surprises when it came to speed, with Louie T showing his ability to keep up with the super-fast Marvin and KJ and Hassan showing off a much quicker step than anticipated. Samir challenged Coach G to a race but unfortunately G’s nerves got the better of him and he declined.

Ryan soon arrived to put the boys through their paces with another amazing skill development session, followed by a scrimmage versus Golden State Prep, where Louie T shone with his ability to get to the basket and play very physically for his age. Finley put in another great performance while Yusuf, Nassim and Daniel displayed superb leadership skills. Shout out to Christian for stepping in and supporting with the refereeing!

The group was then back on the road, this time to Sacramento, where a quick stop at the mall for some food was followed by an early arrival at the Golden 1 Center, one of the USA’s newest and most state of the art basketball arenas.

The team headed to the players car park, where after a short wait they were greeted by none other than Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings star player and cousin of Bristol MET’s Louie T. Buddy led the group through the players tunnel and out into the arena where courtside seats for the warm-ups awaited. The next hour was spent watching the likes of Dwyane Wade, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy and many more players work on their games, with Louie T at one point having the chance to rebound for his cousin. Many selfies were taken with the players, and Kings assistant Bob Thornton kindly gave all the Bristol MET boys Sacramento Kings hats.

Before the game tipped off the boys were invited to be part of the “high 5 tunnel” on the court as the players ran out, and sat on the sideline while the Kings and Heat players went through their pre-game layups. The game itself was a thriller, as the Kings came back from a deficit in the final quarter to narrowly grab the victory, with Buddy top scoring for the home team. After the game it was back with Buddy at his Q & A with the fans, where he then gave the Bristol MET boys an inspiring motivational talk and each a pair of his signed shoes. It was a truly incredible experience that the boys will certainly remember for a lifetime.

Day 8

After an amazing week in California it was time to say goodbye and head back to the UK. A brief stop at the Westfield Mall in downtown San Francisco for some last minute shopping was followed by the drive to the airport to catch a 7 pm flight. The wait at the airport offered a chance for the boys to reflect on what had been a wonderful US experience, which hopefully offers tremendous inspiration moving forward and some very fond memories to look back on.

From a BTM Basketball stand-point the Bristol MET group were one of the most enjoyable and rewarding teams to host, with some amazing young men led by Head of PE Tom Hooper, who has put in hours and hours to build a program that offers so much value to the kids both on and off the court. Also big thank you to Christian for his tremendous energy and Gareth for his navigation skills, and their combined support throughout the tour.

We are very excited to work with Bristol MET again in the future, as well as the chance to bring more teams to San Francisco, California.