The Brighton Cougars Take On Madrid
The first day began with an early arrival at Gatwick airport, where the boys met Coach Naz, BTM Rep Tom and Parent Collin and made a swift journey through security into the departure lounge. After some food, excited chatter and high-level comedy from Josh, the group headed to the gate to board the plane to Madrid-Barajas airport!
The journey featured a little turbulence, much to the frustration of Izaak who was hoping for a smoother ride. Some of the boys spent the journey chatting, while others such as Callum caught up on some much needed sleep in preparation for the intense tour that would be coming their way.
Upon arrival the Cougars were met by bus driver Diego, who drove them the swift 20-minute journey to Tres Cantos where they would reside for the week. They were assigned their rooms at the wonderful Exe Hotel, and then hit the supermarket to buy some essential snacks for the tour. Floyd, Theo and Nils pretty much bought one of every item in the shop, while the others were a little more conservative.
After settling in their rooms and unpacking they had a team meeting in the lobby, where tour aims and objectives were discussed, and then headed across to Las Estaciones restaurant where dinner was served. They were treated with a delightful 3-course meal featuring a variety of dishes, including shrimp-stuffed avocados, fresh grilled tuna, veal, chicken, Spanish omelette and more, and finished off with tiramisu, ice creams, fruit and juice.
At this point the boys were exhausted, returning to the hotel to head to their rooms and catch some much-needed sleep in preparation for a big day of basketball on Tuesday.
The second day of the tour started with a delicious breakfast in the hotel buffet, where the boys feasted on a variety of foods including eggs, Spanish tortilla, cantaloupe, chocolate muffins and much more. They would need plenty of fuel to get them through an intense morning of basketball, and after finishing up they strolled over to Polideportivo La Luz where the majority of their basketball practices and games would take place.
“La Luz” is the home of CB Tres Cantos, one of the most successful clubs in Madrid, and features a huge 3-court facility with stadium seating surrounding the courts. Their first practice would be with Coach Naz, the boys Brighton-based Head Coach that would be leading them throughout the tour. Naz put the boys through some skill development and shooting reps, in prep for the skill clinic that would ensue. Both Phoenix and Alex brought tremendous energy right from the jump, setting the example for the effort required throughout the tour.
The boys had a quick snack and drink break before their next session with Alvaro Gijon Lopez, the Technical Director of CB Tres Cantos who has many years of experience in developing young players. The theme of Alvaro’s session was transition, where the boys started with the basics of working to receive an outlet pass, before moving on to the more technical details of pushing the ball up the floor and running in the correct channels. As always Tyler and Noah gave maximum effort and listened intently to what Alvaro said, courtesy of the translator Inigo, a Tres Cantos player who previously played 2 years at Reading Rockets.
After an intense 3 hours the boys were exhausted, and headed to the beautiful “Polideportivo Foresta” outdoor swimming pool, where they sat down for lunch in the restaurant. On the menu was pasta bolognese, chicken kiev, salad and chips, followed by a juicy piece of melon. After more than enough food the boys sat down by the pool to let their lunch go down, before heading poolside to show off their diving skills and play in the pool. A few hours of splashing around ensued, followed by the bus picking them up to transport them back to the hotel for some rest and recuperation before the evening game.
An excited group of Brighton Cougars arrived back at “La Luz” to take on the CB Tres Cantos ’05 boys in their first game of the tour. The TC teams play great drive and kick basketball, moving very well off the ball and knocking down open shots at will, and would be a tough test for the Cougars. The Brighton boys jumped out to a great start, converting defensive stops into transition baskets and taking a very small lead in the early stages. Izaak and Tyler played some fantastic pick and roll basketball, while Callum and Alex drove to the basket and finished strong.
Tres Cantos pulled back the lead, but every time the Spanish side tried to make a big push the Brighton boys refused to give in, keeping the game close throughout the first and second half. In the closing minutes the Cougars boys turned an 8-point deficit into a mere 2-point game, but a final run by Tres Cantos gave them a 72-61 victory over the Cougars. It was an amazing effort by the boys, who had battle adversity in every quarter and thrived, and Coach Naz was very proud of the way they played.
A well-deserved dinner was served at Las Castilleros restaurant on the main street, where the boys enjoyed Russian salad, veal, chips and ice cream, before returning to the hotel to head to their rooms and get some sleep.
The boys rolled out of bed for breakfast bright and early, before heading over to La Luz for their morning skill clinic with Alvaro. The theme of today’s clinic was footwork and shooting, and Alvaro made use of ladders, benches and other elements in order to encourage the players to focus on the way they gathered themselves for their shot, and landed after it. It was highly technical and for the majority of the players a completely new basketball concept for them. Phoenix was once again incredibly attentive, concentrating on what Alvaro was teaching and putting it into practice on the floor, and Theo was really locked in throughout the session.
The clinic finished with a decision making & one on one section, in which the players made moves to which the defense had a split second to react to stand a chance of getting a stop. The boys thoroughly enjoyed this and there was plenty of friendly trash talk going on as they competed with each other.
Once the clinic was over they headed to the swimming pool to catch some rays and take advantage of the clear blue water with some acrobatic jumps and dives from the side of the pool. Throughout the diving melee Izaak lost his diamond earring, and he and Tyler began a search party for it which proved to be successful when Tyler retrieved it! Coach Naz fell asleep in the grass, and Alex kindly woke him by pouring cold water over his face. After a few hours of time in the water the boys settled down to some lunch at the pool, which included pasta, salad, steak and a yogurt dessert, before the bus arrived to transport them back to the hotel for a swift turnaround.
They were soon back on the bus to Arroyomolinos, a Madrid municipality that is home to Arroyomolinos Lions who would be the Brighton Cougars’ Game 2 opponents. The Cougars once again got off to a strong start, as Nils rebounded ferociously and Noah brought amazing energy and hustle from the bench. Arroyomolinos weren’t a big team by any means, but they worked very hard and had a couple of great shooters that would prove to be very difficult to stop throughout the contest.
Arroyomolinos had soon claimed the lead, despite great efforts from Josh and Floyd, the latter knocking down a couple of important shots throughout the first and second half. However it seemed that the Spanish side couldn’t miss, as they fired in scores from around the basket all the way out to 3 steps behind the 3-point line. In the same fashion as in Game 1 the Brighton Cougars boys never stopped working hard and pushing themselves, but Arroyomolinos proved too strong and grabbed a 41-71 win. A battle-weary group of boys returned to the bus, which shuttled them back to Tres Cantos and Las Estaciones restaurant where they had a 3-course feast before returning to the hotel to shower and sleep.
A much-needed rest day was needed for the boys, who had played a lot of basketball throughout the tour so far and were ready to take on some Madrid culture. After another delicious breakfast, they jumped on the team bus with driver Diego and headed to the Bernabeu Stadium, home to the legendary Real Madrid football team.
The Bernabeu tour gives an opportunity to experience the stadium from the very top rafters, check out the numerous trophies the team have won over the years, sit on a team bus replica, give interviews in the media room, see the locker room and head out onto the pitch for a dugout experience. The boys were inspired by the winning culture on show and by the obvious multi-millions involved in the running of the club, and Alex was delighted at the opportunity to “take a photo” with Gareth Bale.
After the Stadium Tour Diego was back to drop the group at 100 Montaditos near Retiro Park, where the boys enjoyed a variety of delicious mini-baguettes, sides and drinks, including Spanish tortilla, pulled pork, salmon, chicken and much more. After a very satisfying meal it was time to explore, with the first destination on the list being the Royal Palace where the boys snapped some photos and admired the rich history of the huge building.
After the Palace it was on to Gran Via, where a few of the boys were desperate to buy Gucci shades from one of the street vendors and Izaak walked away with a very stylish pair on his head. Gran Via is packed with numerous department stores and well-known shops, and after checking out the popular ones the group arrived at the amazing Retiro Park, the centrepiece of Madrid city centre.
Collin kindly treated the boys to ice creams at one of the park’s many cafes, before heading over to the vast boating lake where Izaak, Phoenix, Tyler and Alex rented a boat and terrorised the local ducks and fellow boaters. Once they’d had their boating fix it was back on the bus to Tres Cantos for unlimited pizza and drinks at the local Dominoes and then to the hotel to relax and unwind before bed.
Friday morning began with another great breakfast, and then the sunny walk to Polideportivo La Luz where the boys would have another skill clinic with Alvaro. This morning’s theme was a continuation of the previous session, with the core focus being footwork and finishing. The boys were locked in and focused once again, and were treated with some competitive transition drills to finish off the session, in which Nils, Josh and Noah performed really well. Despite his frustrations at not being able to do the competitive drills, Theo picked up a lot throughout the skill clinics thanks to his focus and attentiveness to what Alvaro was teaching.
Once the session was finished the boys made the brief journey to the swimming pool for another relaxing afternoon swim before their final game of the tour. Floyd was very active in the water, doing a lot of wrestling with anyone that would go near him, and the boys enjoyed some incredible Spanish sunshine as well as a great pool-side lunch of rice, tomato sauce and eggs to start and a chicken & chips combo for the main course. Alex once again woke Naz with a bottle of cold water, but this time he wasn’t quite as receptive to the joke.
The players were transported back to the hotel for a quick rest before their final journey to La Luz, where they would be facing the CB Tres Cantos team again for a chance to get redemption after the loss on Tuesday evening. Once again the game turned out to be a back and forth thriller, as the teams traded baskets with Cougars holding a brief lead, before Tres Cantos snatched it right back.
Callum showed ridiculous amounts of stamina, energy and toughness as he bolted from end to end for the entire game, while Floyd and Noah played lock-down defense on their match-ups. “66.66” Spicer, earning the nickname for his shooting percentage that game knocked down some huge 3’s for the Cougars, while Izaak was a machine at both ends, churning out baskets offensively and swatting multiple shots on the defensive end.
In the 2nd half the Tres Cantos team opened up a double-digit lead, but in the final 3 minutes the Cougars came storming back, led by the consistently impressive play from Tyler who showed a vast range of skills and toughness throughout the entire tour. Once again there was just 2 points favouring the Spanish with a few minutes to go, but the heat and exhausting week got the better of the Cougars and the Tres Cantos team pushed ahead to win 59-50. However it had very much felt like a win for the Brighton boys, who had truly battled through adversity to perform at such a high level.
The team headed to Los Castilleros restaurant for the End of Tour dinner, where they shared many laughs and ate some great food before returning to the hotel.
The boys were given the well-earned opportunity to sleep in a little, and they took advantage of it with a 9.45 am breakfast and 10.30 am meeting in the lobby. After stocking up on snacks from the local supermarket for the flight home, BTM rep Tom sat down with the boys and discussed his basketball journey with them, before they boarded the bus to Madrid-Barajas airport.
After checking-in and going through security, the group sat down for a presentation from Coach Naz who awarded the Tour MVP to Tyler and Hardest Worker award to Phoenix. They then made their way to the departure gate to board the plane back to Gatwick Airport, a very happy and inspired group of boys ready to take on the upcoming national league season!
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Anamarie SpicerSeptember 1, 2019
Josh had an amazing time and can’t stop talking about it. Thanks Tom.