Long Road Lion’s “Roaring” Tour to Madrid
The Long Road Academy U19 Men’s tour to Madrid in early April was an exciting 5 days of intense basketball development & competition, cultural experiences and unique Spanish food taken on by 9 players, 2 coaches and a BTM rep. The group consisted of Coach Pete and staff member Ben, BTM rep Tom and players Micah, Josh, Gio, Matt, Vince, Ben Rix, Michael, George and Ben Rayner.
An early start on Thursday 4th April saw the group meeting at 6 am at Stanstead Airport, where they were joined by BTM Rep Tom. After a quick bite to eat in the departure lounge it was on to the plane, with a swift 2-hour journey and arrival at the Madrid-Barajas airport. The team was met by bus driver Pablo, a very personable chap, who drove them to the suburb of Tres Cantos about 20 minutes away.
After dropping off bags in the 4* Hotel Exe, the boys headed across the road to Restaurante Estaciones to take on their first Spanish lunch. Coach Pete was particularly surprised by his paella, which was filled with some interesting looking crabs, while Micah seemed to enjoy his a lot.
It was then a swift and scenic walk through the park to “La Luz,” the 3-court stadium home to CB Tres Cantos, BTM Basketball’s partner club in Madrid. CB TC’s Technical Director Alvaro Gijon Lopez arrived to greet the group, and Coach Pete commenced practice while staff member Ben got the camera going to document it. There was great energy throughout the training, especially from Gio and Ben Rix who brought lots of intensity.
After practice the boys walked back to Hotel Exe where they quickly showered, changed and jumped on a bus to the WizInk Center in central Madrid where they were to see a Euroleague match-up between Real Madrid and Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas. Before the game started they grabbed dinner at 100 Montaditos, a restaurant featuring over 100 different types of mini-baguette including Spanish Tortilla, Burger, Squid and more, as well as various side dishes.
After being fully stuffed, they headed across the road to the WizInk Center for their first experience of Euroleague action. George had worn his favourite green Hawaiian shirt, which matched the green of Zalgiris Kaunas, who’s fans were very excitable and made considerably more noise than the Spanish contingency in the building. The Kaunas team were in 8th place and fighting to make playoffs, while the Real Madrid team were due to finish 3rd regardless of the result, so the game meant a tremendous amount to the Lithuanian team.
In an exciting and intense contest, the Lithuanian team pulled away at the end to secure victory and confirm their place in the Euroleague playoffs, while the fans in green roared with delight. The group jumped back on the bus to the hotel, exhausted after a long day and hit their rooms for a good night sleep.
The second day of the tour began with a big buffet breakfast in the hotel consisting of breads, eggs, sausages, vegetables, fruits, cereals and different types of cakes, much to the delight of the boys who stuffed themselves heartily. The bus arrived to take them to La Luz, where Coach Pete ran them through a practice consisting of shooting, offences and half-court play.
Next up was a coaching clinic with Alvaro Gijon Lopez, the Technical Director of CB Tres Cantos who has years of coaching experience and always delivers exceptional clinics for our touring players. Alvaro worked on the fundamentals of transition offense with the Long Road players, and the boys pushed themselves really hard for the entirety of the session. Ben Rayner and Vince were really locked in, and after 3 hours on the court they were ready to refuel with some lunch.
The boys hopped on the bus back to the hotel to shower, before heading across to Restaurante Estaciones for another delicious lunch, this time featuring a little less paella than the previous day. The boys got some much-needed rest in the hotel, with some of them opting for a swift nap in preparation for the evening game versus CB Tres Cantos U16 1st team.
The bus arrived at the hotel to transport the boys back to “La Luz” for Game 1, and they were all buzzing for their match-up with the Spanish team. Tres Cantos U16’s are a particularly strong unit who were in the midst of their Madrid playoff campaign, and it would prove to be a very tough test for the boys from Cambridge. The game started off closely contested, with some aggressive scoring from Josh and composed ball-handling from Ben Rayner. However, the slick team play and hot 3-point shooting from the Spanish side allowed them to open up a lead, which grew as they continued to demonstrate their exceptional offensive abilities.
The 2nd half was similar for the Cambridge boys, with Matt fighting hard defensively and Micah attacking the boards aggressively, but the Spanish team continued to pile on the pressure and ran away convincing winners of the game.
The team returned to the hotel a little subdued, but a good three-course meal at Los Castilleros restaurant brought the good feeling back to the group, and they were able to see the game as a major learning experience for them moving forward.
The third day of the tour was the Madrid city experience, as the group jumped on the train from Tres Cantos into the heart of the Madrid city centre, arriving at “Sol” ready to take on the sights and sounds of Spain’s bustling capital.
First on the list was the Real Madrid team store, where the team gathered together to discreetly buy Coach Pete a Real Madrid authentic jersey as a thank you for all the efforts from the season. The group then headed to the “House of Hoops” store to see the large variety of basketball shoes, where Ben Rix bought himself a trendy vest and Josh ended up in a freestyle battle with one of the store employees (Josh finished in 2nd place).
After a shopping fix the team were adamant that they wanted to eat again at 100 Montaditos, which had become a hit amongst the players thanks to the huge variety of baguettes and snacks on offer. After stuffing themselves it was then to the beautiful Retiro Park, which features large grassy areas, fountains and a boating lake, making for a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
On the previous day the team had been invited to see the CB Tres Cantos Men’s team play in a 1st national fixture against another Madrid-based side, a game that was essential to their playoff hopes moving forward. The Long Road team jumped on the subway to the “Olimpicos” arena, where the game was in full swing between two intense and passionate teams. The game featured technical fouls, ejections, long-range bombs, tough finishes and much more, but it was not to be for the visiting CB Tres Cantos team as Olimpicos pulled away in the final quarter to secure the win.
The group headed back into Madrid for some dinner before returning to the hotel in Tres Cantos. Tom sat down with the group to discuss his basketball journey and the key learning elements from each step, with George, Gio, Vince and Ben Rix being particularly engaged in the speech.
Day 4 had a similar structure to the 2nd day of the tour, as the boys had an early start to breakfast and then were transported by bus to the “Polideportivo Ciudad de Columbia,” an alternative venue for the day’s practice and game. The players were put through their paces by Coach Pete, recapping some of the transition offense that had been worked on with Alvaro in the previous clinic, as well as some shooting development with Tom. Michael and Matt were really locked in on the shooting, as were most of the team who were gaining a lot from the new information being passed their way. Alvaro then arrived to run a clinic on the 2-man game, beginning with hand-offs and building up to ball-screen decision making.
After their morning clinic the boys headed to the local mall, where they enjoyed some delicious burgers, fries and drinks, as well as some social time in preparation for the evening competition they would be facing.
Game 2 was back at the Columbia facility, where this time the team would take on the CB Tres Cantos U16 2nd team and get a chance to redeem themselves after the Friday loss. The 2nd team were slightly smaller and less physical than the 1st team, but a skilled and smart team nonetheless that would put up a great fight against the Long Road players.
The game started well for the Cambridge-based team, as Ben Rayner attacked the rim aggressively and Micah ran the floor well to open up the scoring. Michael offered a strong defensive presence inside while Ben Rix and Gio scored some key baskets down the stretch. Despite Long Road Academy’s efforts, Tres Cantos continued to hang around and there were multiple lead changes throughout the contest. In the end it was the British boys that prevailed, holding a 2-point lead for the final 40-second stretch and claiming the victory.
The team celebrated their win with a trip to “VIPS” restaurant in the local mall, where the boys enjoyed burgers, pizzas, pastas and more. It was then back to the hotel for the tour presentation where every player was given an individual (and very humorous) award for their efforts throughout their time in Madrid.
The final morning of the tour was spent relaxing at the hotel, before the bus arrived to transport the players to the airport for their flight back to the UK. A smooth transfer through security and boarding onto the plane ensued, and two and a half hours later the team landed back on home soil with an exciting and inspiring international experience under their belt. A huge thanks to Coach Pete and Ben for their efforts throughout the tour and for working so hard for the boys, we look forward to hosting the Long Road Lions again in the future!