Itchen College Make an Impact in Dunkirk and Belgium

Posted by on Jun 26, 2019 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Itchen College are one of the most successful basketball Academies in the UK, routinely having major success both in the EABL and in their development and placement of British players in US Colleges. In the 2018/19 season they reached the EABL final four, where they bowed out to eventual champions Charnwood College.

In early April we hosted 10 players and 2 coaches in Dunkirk, France, where they enjoyed some French and Belgian culture and played games against local players.

Day 1

The team of Matt, Kieran, Jeremy, Joslyn, Steve, Alex, Stan, Titas, Rhys, Jonny and coaches Matt and Jack arrived in Dover ready to board the ferry that would take them across to Calais. The group were in good spirits, and after a swift journey on the ferry and drive to the hotel they unpacked and headed across to the supermarket to grab some food before their first game.

A scenic drive through the countryside led the group to Ardres (pronounced AR-DRUH), a small town in Northern France home to Ardres Basket where the Itchen team would play their first game against the Men’s team.

In the 1st quarter the Itchen team used their speed and skill to build a small lead, moving the ball well and scoring both at the basket and from the outside. As with all French teams, the Ardres Basket team played really hard to stay close to Itchen boys, and at the end of the 1st it finished 25-19 Itchen.

In the 2nd Itchen continued to play good team basketball, with contributions from all 10 players including great energy from Steve and Jonny in the guard positions. Josyln was very active around the basket at both ends, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds and putting it straight back in for scores, and at half-time Itchen had a comfortable 46-33 lead.

After a half-time speech from Coaches Matt Guymon and Jack O’Keeffe, the Itchen boys were back on the floor looking to close out the game. They came out firing, as Kieran and Rhys went to work from the 3-point line and extended the lead against the French team. The boys from the UK never looked back, dominating the final two quarters to win the game 80-57.

After a good stretch, the Itchen team jumped back in the minibus and Land Rover and headed to a local McDonalds to get a bite to eat before returning to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.

Day 2

The boys were up bright and early for breakfast at the hotel, which featured eggs, croissants, yoghurt, fruit and much more. After filling themselves they were back on the road, this time heading to Belgium for the BCJS Estaimpuis Tournoi, an U21 tournament featuring local teams from the region.

The tournament was in a very interesting location, the court springing up in the middle of a castle grounds in Estampuis on the border of Belgium and France. The tournament had a fun atmosphere, with a 2-court layout, bar area and barbeque out the back. The games featured 2x 15-minute halves, and there would be 3 on the schedule for the Itchen College team on the day.

Itchen’s first game was against BBCP Heuvelland, a Dutch team who would end up being at the mercy of the British boys’ dominance. Alex got the Itchen team off to a strong start with some great finishing around the basket, while Stan came in off the bench to offer some valuable production defensively. It was then time for one of the brightest young stars in British basketball to take over the game, as Jeremy Sochan razzled and dazzled the Belgian spectators with a variety of dunks and blocks on his way to a game-high 16 points. Kieran Allan added 15 and Itchen cruised to a 77-32 lead in the first game of their tournament campaign.

The team were moved swiftly onto Court 2, where they would play BBC Celles from South-East Belgium who offered slightly more physicality than Itchen’s previous opponents. Matt came out all guns blazing, scoring from 3, mid-range and around the basket on his way to a game-high 26 points. Titas ran the show from the point guard position, creating great shots for his teammates and putting a lot of pressure on the Celles ball-handlers. Itchen had way too much for their Belgian opponents and dominated again with a 61-33 victory.

The boys had a chance to rest, eat some food and watch some of the other teams compete before their final game against host team BCJS Estampuis. In Game 3 it was another domination by the Southampton-based boys, who torched the hosts 71-40 from inside and outside including another monster performance from veteran 3rd year Matt who led Itchen with 21 points.

After the game the team was swiftly presented with their championship trophy, before hopping back in the vehicles to hit the road and go deeper into Belgium with a visit to a top-flight Belgian pro game between Leuven Bears and Belfius Mons-Hainaut. After an exciting game the team flooded the court to hoist up some shots and grab a few snaps for their Instagrams, before hitting the road back to Dunkirk where the lads in the Land Rover were treated to DJ A-Grants exceptional taste in music for the entirety of the journey.

Day 3

The boys had a lay-in on Sunday morning after a late return from Belgium on the Saturday night, arising to a classic French breakfast and then heading to the Plage de Malo-les-Bains for a beach walk. Jeremy advised that he would happily take a chilly swim in the channel for 50 euros, but didn’t end up going for it in the end.

Unfortunately the weather was a little iffy, so the team headed to a local cafe to escape the rain and enjoy some French coffee. After a while it was back on the bus and in the Land Rover to head to “Planet Karting,” where they boys would test their abilities on the track. After plugging in their nicknames to the online system, they headed downstairs to put on some kind of shower cap and helmets to protect them from collisions. Once on the track it became clear who was licensed and who still only had a provisional, as Titas aka “El Chapo” and Stan went roaring to the front, while Alex and Steve took the corners at a more pedestrian speed.

After their go-karting experience the team headed back to Calais, where they boarded the ferry and began the journey back home to Dover and then Southampton. It was an absolute pleasure to host such a talented, well-organized and hard-working group as the Itchen College program and we hope to collaborate with them again in the future. Huge thanks to Coaches Matt Guymon and Jack O’Keeffe for all their hard work – until next time!