Sporting jerseys that read “Los Tigres,” members of the men’s basketball team spent their final week of summer traveling in Spain and playing exhibition games against professional teams.
While the Tigers struggled on the court against tough competition during the 10-day trip — winning just one of four games, against a third-division team — the games displayed the depth of the team’s backcourt. Furthermore, players said the trip gave them bonding experiences that will improve their chemistry for the year to come.
The team arrived in Barcelona on Aug. 30 and spent four days in the city, capped off by a trip to Camp Nou to watch Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona take on Valencia. Senior forward Ian Hummer said the tickets the team received were great, and that they were close to the action as they watched Barcelona win 1-0.
“Luckily, we saw a goal,” Hummer said. “Thank God it wasn’t 0-0.”
The Tigers also visited sites such as Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia cathedral, both designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Junior guard T.J. Bray called the cathedral “breathtaking,” noting that he was impressed by the amount of detail prevalent throughout the massive construction.
Bray, out with what he described as a chronic left knee injury that returned this summer, watched from the sidelines as the team progressed throughout its four games, especially on the defensive end.
“The first game was pretty ugly,” Bray said, referring to the Tigers’ 76-66 loss to first-division Assignia Manresa. “Those pro teams are so good, and everyone on those teams is so skilled.”
In the absence of Bray and senior guard Jimmy Sherburne, junior guard Chris Clement and sophomore guard Clay Wilson — who played only sparingly throughout their first two years — received significant minutes, providing a hint into what the Princeton backcourt might look like as the post-Doug Davis ’12 era begins.
“There’s a need for somebody else to step up,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said. “They’re both providing different strengths for us, Clay with shooting and scoring and Chris with decision-making.”
After beating third-division CB Prat 66-61, the Tigers left Barcelona and headed down to Valencia, a seaside town. Clement said he was impressed by the quality of seafood in the paella he ate there. “It’s almost like the shrimp were jumping around in my dish because they were so fresh,” he said.
While he enjoyed the food in general, Clement said the portions were significantly smaller in Europe than what he and his teammates were used to eating at home. He added that he noticed many of the local citizens appeared to be in good physical shape, which he said may have been partly due to the small portions and the culture of walking in many Spanish cities.
“Anytime we eat here, we always throw down,” Clement said. “The locals there are very, very attractive, and everyone there was in some type of physical shape.”
Funding for the trip was provided by donations from Friends of Princeton Basketball. Many varsity teams, including the men’s basketball team, take overseas trips once every four years.
Overall, Henderson said the Tigers got what they wanted out of the trip: the challenge of competing against professionals who played the game differently. Henderson said in European basketball, players are highly skilled all over the court, as big men have strong shooting skills and guards are adept inside.
The different rules and referees required some adjusting — Hummer said he and his teammates were called for fouls and travels he felt would not have been called in American basketball — but overall the players said they found the on-court experience valuable and the time off-court eye-opening.
“That trip was the best 10 days of my life,” Clement said. “The fact that I can say I spent those 10 days with my teammates, it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/19/31150/