Richmond Knights Battle Valiantly in Boston
The Richmond Knights U18 Boys and U16 Boys & Girls joined us in Boston this past month for an incredible 8-day experience, in which they competed against some high-level teams, spent time in the city, saw various cultural and sporting sights and enjoyed classic US dining.
The Knights are one of the UK’s most successful and well-run clubs, and we were eager to see how their highly-talented players would fare against tough US competition that was scheduled in throughout the week.
Day 1 – Monday
The Knights met in Gatwick Airport on Monday afternoon in preparation for their flight to Boston Logan airport – there was considerable excitement amongst both players and coaches in advance of their journey to the ultimate basketball destination, the United States of America.
The Knights staff featured Director James Merchant and Coaches Rhys Davies (U18 Boys), Umar Hamidullah (U16 Boys) and Isaac Omirin (U16 Girls), alongside 5 U18 Boys, 10 U16 Boys and 9 U16 Girls. The tour party also featured Girls Team Manager Amarilys Rodriguez and BTM Reps Mark and Tom.
Upon arrival in the USA they headed to the car rental building where the group was issued their two minibuses and two Chevrolet Suburbans which would transfer the players around Boston throughout the tour. It was then straight back to the Holiday Inn Mansfield-Foxboro where the staff and players were greeted with several pizzas and a good nights sleep.
Day 2 – Tuesday
The day began with a hearty breakfast at the hotel, where the buffet featured a huge selection of foods from eggs, bacon and sausages to waffles, oatmeal and fruit. The staff and players filled-up, before being transferred to Mass Premier Courts, a 6-court facility no more than 5 minutes drive from the hotel.
The day’s basketball began with team training from the respective Knights coaches, as Coaches Rhys, Umar and Isaac put the teams through their paces with shooting, footwork and finishing. The Knights have some of the most skilled and talented players in the UK, and it was amazing to watch them working on their craft in preparation for the next step in their careers.
Next up was the elite skill clinic, this time being run by Coach Dan Nagle, Director of Basketball Operations at MPC and Head Coach of King Philip HS Varsity Girls. Dan ran the teams through some fun and challenging offensive drills, before giving the teams a chance to compete in a transition drill that tested offense, defense and reactions.
Once finished the players headed back to the hotel for a quick shower, before being driven to Patriots Place, home to the New England Patriot’s Gillette Stadium and Hall of Fame experience. The Knights enjoyed a tasty lunch before heading into the Hall of Fame to learn about the history and success of the NFL’s most successful team. The players were mightily impressed with the winning culture of the Patriots, as well as all the interactive video and games on offer.
After a quick rest back at the hotel the teams were driven to Fore Kicks Sports Complex, where the U18/16 Boys would play against Mansfield HS and the U16 Girls versus King Philip HS.
On the Boys side, the Knights were off to a scorching start as they scored inside on the slightly smaller Mansfield players, while lighting it up from long range with some accurate shooting. Meanwhile the Girls were struggling to find their rhythm against an energetic King Philip team, who pressed the Knights to try and force them into tough passes and rushed shots.
However in the 2nd half it was a complete reversal, as the Boys struggled to find their rhythm and the Mansfield team exploded from the outside, while the Girls whittled away at King Philip’s lead before blowing them out in the final stages. The Boys lost 52-60, while the Girls won 52-38.
After the games the teams headed back to the hotel to get showered before driving over to the local “99” restaurant for some much-needed dinner and then an early night in preparation for a long upcoming day.
Day 3 – Wednesday
The Knights were up early again, this time heading to Springfield, Massachusetts, home to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Their visit to the HOF would give them a chance to learn more about the history of the game, as well as play the interactive games and challenges found within.
The players had the chance to shoot around on the full-size Hall of Fame court, dunk on some lower hoops and even shoot on a peach basket based on the first ever regulation basketball hoop created by Dr. James Naismith. On the upper floor they tested their vertical jump, which for many of them was off the maximum scale found on the testing platform!
After getting their Hall of Fame fix the Knights sat down to eat lunch in the local Subway, before a quick trip to Dunkin Donuts ensued where they all got themselves a classic American donut. It was then back to the hotel for some rest before the evenings games, which would be at Foxboro Charter School, a local American high school with a fantastic two court facility.
The U16 Girls would face the talented Bishop Feehan HS while the U16 Boys would play Whitman-Hanson HS, a local powerhouse that combine great athletes with exceptional team play.
The Girls match-up was a back and forth affair, with the lead changing multiple times before a strong finish by the Americans led to them pulling out a 52-54 win and handing the Knights Girls their first loss of the tour. On the boys end it was a little more one-sided, as Whitman-Hanson showed their skill, athleticism and IQ in abundance, giving the young Knights a masterclass on breaking down the defense with a 68-40 win for the local team.
The U18/16 Boys combined team then played against Whitman-Hanson, suffering a similar outcome to the younger team, going down 51-90. It was a tremendous learning experience for the Knights teams, many of whom hadn’t come across such exceptional team basketball before, and they could walk away from the games with their heads held high at the effort they’d given.
After the games the teams were treated to boneless chicken wings, potato wedges, watermelon and brownies back at the hotel, before returning to their rooms exhausted from the long day of sightseeing and intense basketball.
Day 4 – Thursday
After plenty of basketball training and competition, Thursday would offer a bit of respite for the Knights teams with a visit to the famous Fenway Park baseball stadium to see the Boston Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Knights arrived in downtown Boston and headed for the “bodega,” a secret shoe and clothing shop found inside a local corner store. The shop had many “exclusive” shoes and clothes, and the players were all very impressed with what was on offer, although most of the price tags were a little much to leave the shop with too many purchases.
It was then a swift walk to Fenway Park, where the players and coaches found their seats to settle down and enjoy the MLB action. The atmosphere at Fenway is second to none, and the lively crowd sang renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ball-Game” and “Sweet Caroline,” much to the delight of the visiting Knights. The players all had lunch at Fenway, which consisted mostly of burgers or hot dogs, and seemed delighted at their first ever baseball experience.
Once the game finished the buses headed back to the hotel, and the players were then taken to the Wrentham Village outlets to enjoy an early evening of shopping, visiting such stores as Nike, Under Armour, Ralph Lauren and many more. Once they’d gotten their shopping fix they were driven to Applebees for a dinner of unlimited ribs, chicken and shrimp, eating as much as they could and returning their full bellies and tired bodies back to the hotel for bed.
Day 5 – Friday
The Knights awoke and had another great breakfast at the hotel, before heading to MPC for a morning team session with their respective coaches. They were then put through their paces by Coach Ryan, who focused on skill development and gave the teams another taster of American-style coaching. They also spent time working on their on-ball defensive movement, which would be essential for their evening games where they would face some very skilled one on one players.
After practice they were back at the hotel, and many of the players opted to visit the local mall to check out yet more shoes and clothes while others rested and enjoyed the delights of the hotel swimming pool and jacuzzi. Some of the group opted to eat at the mall while others had food brought to them, giving plenty of opportunity to stay off their feet and get ready for more intense US competition.
That evening the teams would head to Stoughton, Massachusetts and the incredible Dana Barros Basketball Club, a state of the art 5-court facility established by the long-time NBA player from Boston. This was likely the most amazing practice facility any of the Knights players had ever seen, and it would be a tremendous opportunity to play in there.
The U16 Girls would face Oliver Ames HS, a local team that had produced many college players including recent recruits at local NCAA D2 powerhouse Stonehill College. The U16 Boys would also play against Oliver Ames HS, which was sure to be an intense match-up based on the American’s toughness and shooting ability. Oliver Ames also boasts the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie as one of their alumni, so it wasn’t just basketball they were known for!
The U16 Girls started a little slow, allowing the Oliver Ames team some open shots that they converted, but fought their way back into the game with tighter defense and transition scores of their own. The U16 Boys struggled to find their rhythm throughout the game, while Oliver Ames were lights out from downtown, and the Americans pushed on for a 50-29 win. Meanwhile after a promising comeback on the Girls side, the Oliver Ames team went on a big run in the latter stages and beat the Knights 50-33.
Next up it would be the U18 Boys versus powerhouse AAU team the Dana Barros Gladiators, a really exciting match-up that early on appeared to favour the Knights as they entered a battle of athletic prowess with the Americans. There were some huge highlights at either end, with great offensive and defensive efforts from the Knights being cheered on by the Girls on the sidelines. The Knights used the momentum to storm to a 52-44 win against arguably the most talented opponents of the tour!
Feeling very chuffed with their efforts that evening, the teams stopped off at Wendy’s on the drive home for a well-deserved burger and fries before heading back to the hotel for a shower and sleep.
Day 6 – Saturday
A light start to Saturday had the teams on the hardwood floor at MPC for a shoot-around/walk-through session with the coaches, followed by some chill time back at the hotel with a bit more pool/jacuzzi action.
Some of the players decided they wanted to head back to the mall to do yet more shopping, where they also grabbed themselves some lunch, while those remaining had food delivered to the hotel and continued their rest and recuperation.
That evening the Knights headed into central Boston, with the first stop being the waterfront where they admired the boats and saw a street entertainer jump over 4 grown men!
Next up was the wonderful Quincy Market and the many amazing food stalls on offer, including noodles, burritos, cheesesteak, sushi and much more. The players went their separate ways to grab dinner, with most of the players opting for the ever-popular Philly cheesesteak, and then reconvened with food and some ice creams having been devoured.
The Knights made their way up to the Bill Russell statue, where they tried to wrestle the ball away from him, a very challenging task both during his glory days and when dealing with his statue. After a photo opportunity it was then a slow walk back to the buses to return to the hotel and get rest before Sunday’s mini-tournament at MPC.
Day 7 – Sunday
Sunday was tournament time for the Knights, where each team would play 2 games against US High School opposition throughout the morning and afternoon. This final round of games would offer a great chance to find out what the Knights had learnt from their games against the aggressive and persistent style of US basketball.
First up was the Boys U16 versus local high school Bishop Feehan, which proved to be a nail-biter as both teams scored relentlessly at either end, struggling to contain each others hot offensive play. Tied at 45-45 going into the 4th, the Knights got some big stops down the stretch and pulled away to grab a 62-57 win.
The Girls U16 first game of the day was versus Norton High School, who proved to be no match on the day for the British Girls who took a resounding 34-10 lead going into half-time. In the 2nd half the Knights continued to pile on the pressure, scoring freely in transition and finishing with a 63-21 win.
Next up was the Boys U18 versus Bishop Feehan, with the US team looking for revenge after their fall to the 16’s earlier that day. The American’s held a 33-30 lead with 7 minutes to go, and after an incredibly defensive final spell they maintained their lead to win 42-35.
The Girls U16 took on King Philip in their next match-up, taking the tremendous momentum built from their previous game to take a 29-24 lead at the half. The girls scoring was consistent in the 2nd half, pulling out the necessary stops to win their final game of the tour 46-36.
Meanwhile the Boys U16 faced the powerful Whitman-Hanson, who once again displayed their incredibly gritty approach to the game with hard-nosed defense and efficient offense. The Knights battled hard to try and stick with WH, but found themselves down 24-49 at the half and 50-86 down on the final buzzer.
The final game of the tour would be the Boys U18 versus Whitman-Hanson, which was close in the early stages before WH pulled away towards the end of the half to take a 43-26 lead going into the break. However the resilient Knights were not about to be outdone, bringing the score back to within 10 points before WH pulled away again to win 64-78.
Once the tournament was over the teams headed back to the hotel to shower and relax, before driving to Sweatt Beach, a beautiful little private beach just 15 minutes from the hotel. They relished their down time, playing some intense American Football on the sand and swimming around in the lake water.
The Knights sat down for the End of Tour awards presented by Director James and the coaches of each respective team. For some of the players it’d be the last time they’d put on a Knights jersey, so it meant a lot to them to be recognized for their efforts not only on the tour but for their entire Knights career. The End of Tour dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse then ensued, where the Knights were served an overwhelming volume of food including steaks, shrimp, burgers and salads.
Day 8 – Monday
The final day began with one final chance for the Knights to indulge themselves in the amazing buffet breakfast, before BTM Rep Tom sat down with the group and discussed some key teaching points that he’d learnt during his playing experience. It was then a swift trip to the mall and outlets to grab any last-minute items and gifts for loved ones back home, before the bags were loaded up onto the minibuses and the group headed for Harvard University in Cambridge, just outside of central Boston.
The Harvard tour began with a walk through the famous business school, where many multi-millionaire company founders and CEOs began their business journeys. Next up was Shake Shack for a quick lunch of burgers, fries and shakes, and then on to the legendary John Harvard statue, where legend has it that luck can be gained by touching his foot.
The final stop on the Harvard tour was the awesome football stadium, where the players snuck in a couple of quick sprint races on the beautifully maintained field. The Knights then gathered back on the minibuses to be driven to Boston Logan International Airport, where they would say their farewells to this incredible city and all the basketball and fun it had to offer.
The Knights players were exceptional throughout the entire tour, playing incredibly hard on the court and conducting themselves respectfully off of it. It was a pleasure as always to host these tremendous young men and women, and work alongside such committed and thorough coaches. We are really excited to host more Richmond Knights teams in the ‘19/20 season, until next time!
To find out more about our US tours click here