Day 8 – Return Flight - Thursday, September 1 7:00 PM EST
9:30 – Everything is packed and we are ready to make our final walk to the Sports Centre for breakfast. Same meal, same delicious results. We need to take a picture with this staff and we do. We loved Stuart and his gang's services; we had to show them our appreciation.
11:00 – On the bus to London, our last road trip on the wrong side of the road. We take some final pictures of the countryside.
12:00 – Arrive at London Heathrow, it's time to say good bye to Keith. Keith was simply the man on this trip. He made sure everything was in order, organized game times, and even hung out with us when there was free time. Super cool guy and we were all extremely lucky to have met him. Thank you for everything, Keith. And if we remember one thing about him, we will remember him as… "GT."
3:00 – Take off. Good bye England. This was a special treat, especially for the four seniors. I think we truly embraced every moment, and yet, we'll still look back and not fully realize how lucky we really are. To everyone we met, Ropes, Johnny, Pete, Stuart, Keith, the opposition we faced, and many others, (I know I'm forgetting people... I'm sorry), we thank you for your hospitality. Best trip of our lives, hands down.
6:00 (Eastern Time) – Land down, only a 7 hour flight. Actually wasn't all that bad though. Fell asleep a couple times, watched Rio and Star Trek. Got to enjoy a nervous James and Julio once again. A couple guys take off on their own, while the rest of the team gets picked back up by Coach McDevitt (again). I guess this is where I'll end this blog. I'm kinda sick of writing anyways. But I hope you enjoyed it, probably am down to about 5% of my original audience due to boredom, but I think I can deal with that.
A special thanks to John Wassenbergh, who literally made this entire trip happen through his connections and financial means. He truly is a legend at St. Joe's and he'll be remembered for a long, long time for not only his playing days, but his generosity to the program. And lastly, Coach Sanicola, who is going to do very, very special things in his tenure here at SJC. Can't even begin describing the respect we have for those two individuals. And again, thanks to all who have supported us. I know I'm probably forgetting some important contributors that made this all happen and I apologize for that. It literally was the trip of a lifetime.
Partial list of contributors:
|Saint Joseph's Alumni||Friends of Monks Basketball|
|Patrick Brennan '02||Bernard Hessemer-Soto|
|Jamie Header '93||Donald O'Brien|
|Michael Kelly '93||Brad Pollard|
|Ronnie M. Lamming '93||Sargent Real Estate|
|Christopher Lee '00||Jude Rich|
|John Maloney '92||Robert J Sanicola Sr.|
|James McGarry '96||Jean Sargent|
|Torey W. McPherson '02||Sean Shaughnessy|
|Erby Mitchell '98|
|Karl Obermeyer '85|
|Thomas Ollmann '88|
|James Polino Jr. '01|
|Jonathan Pratt '05|
|Chad Pulkkinen '07|
|James Thomas '96|
|Justin Underwood '03|
|Scot Vachon '09||THANK YOU!|
|Christopher Vose '03|
|Joseph Wassenbergh '96|
11:00 – Practice time. It's very loose, even four of the English kids from the Youth Camp are practicing with us, and Coach is jumping into drills here and there. We only go for about 45 minutes. It's been a very long week. We still have one scrimmage left tonight before we take off back to the States tomorrow.
12:00 – Lunch is at 2 so a few of the guys decide to stick around the Sports Centre and mess around on the Squash Court and play a little Ping Pong. Coach and I play doubles against Tom and Spens. Onlookers include Jobin, Julio, and Bruno. We play games to 11, best of 3 series. Both games Coach and I are killing it at the beginning, but we just can't handle Tom and Spens' serves at the end, and we lose both games 11-7. Then Keith comes in with his own racket and decides to teach us a lesson or two. Skunks both Coach and I. Tom scores 1 point, Spens gives the best effort with 5. I guess it's a British thing because we were miserably bad in comparison.
3:00 – Back to the dorms for a couple hours before we head down to play the Hemel Storm.
8:30 – The scrimmage is different than the rest of the games we have played. Instead of using time, we play like it's a pickup game. Games are to 20 points. They are a newly formed team I guess and today is the first day they were all together. We beat them 5 out 6 "games."
10:00 – Before heading back to Brookes, we stop at a really quaint, 5-star restaurant. The name of it is called McDonald's. We couldn't help ourselves, it had to be done. We have absolutely loved England, but we're ready to go back to the States I think.
Day 6 - Monday, August 29th 7:52 PM EST
9:00 AM – Another breakfast served by Stuart and his mates. I think he works there every single day. He might even sleep there. He's served us for every meal whether it be now at 9 AM or 9 PM. We can't express enough appreciation for everything he's done for us.
10:00 AM – Today we are working a Youth Basketball Camp right on campus. Ages 14-18 I believe. I think I mentioned it in an earlier blog, but I've been impressed with how fundamental some of the kids are over here. There are only about 16-20 kids, but they all listened well and wanted to get better. A lot of times in the States parents will send their kids to camps just to give them something to do. Today, I felt like every kid truly wanted to see improvement and work hard.
1:00 PM – Hour-long lunch break. As we are eating our crepes and sandwiches, we watch the Track and Field World Championships on a British Sports Station. Bill, Wass' old Coach here at Oxford, makes a small presentation of an MVP Award that Wass won at an All-Star Game during the '96-'97 season. Apparently Wass scratched the original trophy trying to wash it or something and sent it back to get it replaced. They ended up sending the trophy to Bill and it never got back to Wass until today, 14 years later. Pretty cool moment seeing Wass and Bill hug and receive that trophy finally.
1:45 PM – A pigeon literally just flew into the window. We don't know if it's dead or not. We think it flew away. Had to mention that.
3:00 PM – Back to the dorms to rest. Big game tonight against the Reading Rockets. Finally update my blogs. Internet was down for the weekend because IT went home and I wasn't able to get into town because of everything we've been doing so I apologize for the tardiness.
7:30 PM – Game vs. Reading Rockets. Start off a bit slow, many of us were really tight because of all the walking around and other activities we've been doing. No excuse. We start clicking, put together a good run throughout the 2nd quarter and we handled the game from there. Won by 11 I think. Zach went off again (pretty average night for him), and everyone got in and played well together.
11:30 PM – Finishing this up, week of our lives almost over, we sit in the lounge just chillin' and talking about all that we've done. I don't even think we truly can appreciate how lucky we are to be here, but we are all trying to do our best to absorb as much as possible. I think I speak for the team when I write how appreciative we are of all those who supported us in going on this trip. From the people here accommodating anything and everything we need, to Coach and Wass putting in the hours upon hours of work to make sure we could get over here, to our friends and family who provided us with financial needs. We would not be here without each and every one of you. And although this is a little premature since we still have a day and a half left, I'd like to give a shout out to all of you: Thank you… very, very, very, very much.
Day 5 - Monday, August 28 12:38 PM EST
10:00 AM – Trip to London! We catch a bus just down the street and travel an hour into one of the world's greatest cities. Much of the ride is country and farm land. Lots of sheep.
11:00 PM – Upon arrival, we take a quick visit to Hyde Park. Similar to what Central Park is to New York, Hyde Park is filled with people. We came at a pretty interesting time of the day. Here, they have what they call "Speaker's Corner". This is when anyone can speak out to the crowd about whatever they want. I think I took some video and pictures so you'll be able to see better what I mean. We mainly saw people talking about religion but there are no guidelines to this place. One lady seemed to be a little off her rocker. I think she was trying to promote Christianity (or maybe her own version of Christianity), but she was being blatantly racist and the things she was saying didn't really make sense. It was actually kind of humorous.
11:30 AM – We buy tickets for a Hop-on, Hop-off 24 hour Bus Tour. The tickets allow us to "hop on" any corresponding buses that will take you around all parts of London. You can "hop off" at any point in time and sight see whatever you may desire. After spending a little over an hour listening to the tour guide and taking pictures of a lot of cool architectural buildings, we stop for lunch.
3:00 PM – Next adventure includes visiting the Tower of London, which is located conveniently close to the Tower Bridge. Lots of pictures taken here. We take time to walk inside the castle which has many displays and artifacts from back in the day. Next to the castle, they displayed the queen's jewels in another massive structure. They had a few shops and some of the guys bought stuff to bring back with them.
5:00 PM – We take a cruise ship from the Tower Bridge to Westminster Abby. Along the way, one of the crew members was kind enough to point out some of the cool structures along the way. He mentioned that the Tower Bridge is most notably confused with the London Bridge. The Tower Bridge is the really famous one with two cat walks going across the top. The London Bridge is actually very average, and that is why people usually get the two confused. We get dropped off right near "Big Ben," which is the most famous clock in the world. More pictures and even a team shot.
6:00 PM – We walk over to Buckingham Palace and take another team photo. This place was massive. I think one of coolest things about London is how there are tons of really old and famous structures, but there also a crazy amount of new and unique architectural designs as well. I think the pictures will give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.
9:00 AM – Woke up to another fine meal down at the Sports Centre. The gym is being used all day for a camp so we can't shoot around or have practice, and we don't have anything else planned on the itinerary, so it's basically a free day for us to do as we please. Big game tonight so we're not trying to do anything too crazy.
10:00 AM - Tom, Spens, and I decide to walk down into Oxford, but before we get there we stop in at a small café called Tick Tock. Spent some time there since they had Wifi, and now moving on into the center of Oxford.
11:30 AM - Found a couple malls which we explore, go into a Sports outlet, which sold about 70% football (soccer) gear. Sit down at another café for some tea (in attempt to adapt a bit to their culture) and listen to a pretty good vocalist who sings mostly Lady Gaga songs. Interesting.
12:00 PM – While walking around, we see a few guys from the team, including Julio, James Philbrook, Scotty (wearing his straw hat), Matty, Bruno, Clark and Jobin. A couple of them had tried this thing in the mall where you put your feet in a small pool of water and literally let a ton of tiny fish eat the dead skin off your body. It sounds gross and I didn't even think about trying it out, but Jobin and Clark tried it out and said it actually felt kind of good. 10 pounds for two people. Apparently a steal.
1:30 PM – Before walking back to Oxford Brookes, we find a church tower which we decide would be wicked sick to climb. So for 3 pounds/person, we climb away. The spiral staircase up to the top is extremely narrow and we have to wait for people to get down before we can start going up. Took some video of the ascend/descend of the tower. Once at the top, the view is amazing. Took a lot of pics but it is absolutely pouring. Unfortunately, the passageway is so small that you have to take turns letting people go by you (video might give a better idea than my description). Ends up being a 10 person line and we get stuck in the rain for about 10 minutes. Whatever, we're in England. In a church tower. Overlooking the entire city. It could be a blizzard and I still wouldn't care.
2:00 PM – On the walk back, we stop in at the Tick Tock Café again, but this time to actually purchase something. We get a couple burgers and chips (fries) for only a couple pounds. Good deal, nice place. Everyone here is friendly and pleasant to be around. Strangers make conversation with you just to be nice. It's like the States, but the exact opposite.
5:30 PM – After a quick dinner at the Sports Centre, we travel to Milton Keynes to play our third game of the trip. Roughly an hour trip and after a busy day of walking around town, it's important to stay focused.
7:30 PM – The guys on Milton Keynes are much bigger than Bristol. They won the best league in England last year (BBL), but they wouldn't have their Americans for tonight's game. Still, the players were very good. Their player/coach introduced himself to us before and after the game. He is almost 44 and still playing. He played at New Mexico State University (I think) and played in CBA for a couple of years before playing in the NBA for a short stint. Afterwards, he played overseas all over the world including Japan, Korea, Switzerland, and Finland. Finally, he has landed here playing for Milton and he spoke to us about enjoying our experience and the opportunities that may lie ahead due to getting to play over here. It was very nice of him to share some of his journey with us and we all found it impressive for him to be playing still. The game itself was a blast. There was actually a pretty good crowd there (maybe 300-400 people) and we played well for most of the game. Unfortunately we fell just short and lost by 5. Overall, although frustrated by the loss, it ended up being a great learning/enjoyable experience to play in that professional atmosphere.
9:00 AM – Raining here in England. But it's whatever, because umm, we're in England… As we're eating breakfast, Coach comes in to tell us that because of the rain we will not be going to Blenheim Palace which was scheduled on our itinerary for today. Instead, we will be practicing at 11 AM and spending the rest of the day as we please until our game tonight at 8 PM vs. Bristol Flyers.
11:00 AM – Practice begins. We go hard. Wass was telling some of us yesterday of his experiences of when he played in Korea. Apparently they would run 4-5 miles before games! I can't even imagine how hard they practiced. At one point during practice, Coach brought us in to remind us how fortunate we are to be over here, and he's 100% right. There isn't one other American college team over here right now. The last time a St. Joe's Men's Basketball team got to go to another country was 30 years ago! We take a lot of things for granted and we shouldn't be making excuses. Focus for the remainder of practice was good.
2:00 PM – Lunch at the Sports Centre. And once again, food was delicious and the staff was friendly. I can't remember if I mentioned this the last couple days, but one of the biggest things over here is crepes. They really love these. We went to a shop yesterday in which the only thing they made was crepes. And on a personal level, I love them. It's kinda like a burrito but English-style. Other guys want more variety, but I suppose that's just the "American way."
3:30 PM – Uploading a few more pictures from last night that Jane Nicoll (Wass' sister-in-law) took for us. Jane's been awesome. She even gave up her own water bottle last night so that we wouldn't "die" during circuit training. She's also helped us out at practice with the clock and has been our scorekeeper for games thus far. Anyway, the pics give you a decent idea of the workout we embarked on. Lots of different exercises that work all parts of your body. Some more lifting oriented (pushups, squats, calf raises, barbell rows), but others were more for agility/speed/conditioning (plyometrics, hurdles, punching bag, etc).
8:00 PM – Game vs. Bristol Flyers… Started off a little flat but ended up playing well enough to come out with the victory. They were missing their two American players who were apparently a couple of their best players. I was impressed with how fundamental the British players were though. And their coach kept them disciplined. Overall, good first real-game experience against a professional team (more a club team however as I was told later). Tomorrow night will be the true test as we travel to play the Milton Keynes Lions. They are in the BBL and won the league last year, although, like Bristol, they will not have their American players.
10:00 PM – Possibly the best time of the entire trip to date. We hung out after the game with some of the British guys that have spent time with us over the past few days. We were in the lounge for about an hour talking with them and learning a little more about the culture here, etc. Hilarious, some of their stories are absolutely classic, and with their British accents, it just made everything that much funnier. I got a small clip of what the scene was like, hopefully will be uploading that to Facebook soon. There were only a few of us but it was great to just socialize with them for a while.
Day 2 - Thursday, August 26 7:26 PM EST
9 AM – Sitting in the small conference room with the team again, the chef brought out a hot breakfast for each of us. In addition to the sausages, eggs, bacon, and home fries, there was "blood pudding." This "treat" is considered extremely healthy for you, however, as most of us came to agree, it was absolutely disgusting. We found out shortly after that one of the major ingredients is pig blood. However, I need to mention how amazing the staff down at the cafeteria has been. The entire staff has given us plenty of food in a timely fashion. Facility staff have also been extremely accommodating to our needs, whether it be gym time, locker room availability or the entire conference room they've given us to eat in, we are extremely grateful for helping us out.
10 AM – We take a double-decker bus into the center of Oxford. We walk down a couple busy streets to meet up with our tour guide for the morning. She showed us some crazy things around town. One of the colleges (colleges are like departments, example: the Business department would be called a Business College, except with a specific name) was used in the Harry Potter movies. It was neat how well kept the grass was. People aren't even allowed to walk across them. We ventured through the Rose Garden and also got to see parts of the Botanical Garden. Some famous people that have gone to some of the colleges within Oxford University include the current Prime Minister of England (of course, I don't know his name), C.S. Lewis, Chelsea Clinton, John Adams, and George Washington.
1:00 PM – Received our first experience "punting." In England, punting is when you take a boat out on the river with a really long pole (maybe 15 feet) and one person stands at one end of the boat and uses the pole to steer. Not sure if it's the same thing, but it reminds of the people in Venice that taxi others around. So Nich Jobin, Tom Ray, Spenser Adams and I were in one boat, with Tom steering. Got to be out on the river for nearly an hour. Pretty cool experience even though Jobin nearly tipped the boat 6 times. Also met some Canadians, so obviously, we mentioned the Bruins. They weren't impressed.
7:30 PM – No practice. Instead, circuit training, provided by the University. They bring in this crazy in-shape British dude who absolutely killed us. Actual quote from this guy: "Drink water or you will die." Duly noted. There were 30 stations, and we would go for 50 seconds at each station with a 10 second rest (similar to our pre-season). They offer it every week to their members who have to pay for each session. Keith, the athletic director and really the coordinator for our entire trip, let us go for free. There were probably about 80 people there tonight. It was absolutely exhausting but definitely a good workout.
10:00 – It's been another long day. Checking into the student lounge, guys look weary. Scotty, Z, Zoom, Jobin, and Julio were just sitting in the lounge listening to Coach and Wass tell stories about some insane times while they were at school. All details disclosed to team only. All of us are dead tired but it's been a great couple of days so far. Oxford was filled with history and everyone here has been super nice so far. Got our first game tomorrow against the Bristol Flyers here at Oxford Brookes, looking forward to that. For now, it's time to sleep.
The Flight/Day 1 - Wednesday, August 25 6:48 PM EST
2:30 PM – Departing from St. Joe's. Fall sports teams down at the gym wish us good luck and safe travels. Boarding the bus in our "smurf suits", I think we all realize that this could quite possibly be the longest 36 hours of our lives. As well as the beginning of the most exciting and memorable week of our lives. Couldn't ask to be with a better group of guys.
5:00 PM – Coach McDevitt (gracefully) drops us off at Logan Airport. We're three hours early. My father asked me when we were leaving yesterday and when I told him 2 PM (for an 8:30 PM flight), he replied, "Wait, really? Are you guys taking a Duck Tour before you leave or…?" Typical Coach move.
8:45 PM – Our flight departs for England! The takeoff itself provides great humor as Julio Vazquez and James Philbrook close their eyes and grimace in fear. Both are terrified of flying. Excessive laughter from the rest of the team as we watch (and film) their reactions (hopefully video can be uploaded to site).
1:55 AM (or 6:55 AM London time) – After watching Win Win, a couple episodes of The Office, the sun beginning to rise at an accelerated rate, and being less than an hour away from landing (ears are starting to pop already as we decline in altitude), Tom Ray and I have ultimately decided that any hope of sleeping has been lost. Jetlag… be nice.
8:45 AM (Permanent Transfer to London Time) – Stood in Customs for about 25 minutes until Coach made the first power move of the trip. Got the entire group to skip out on about a 300 person line and at least an hour and a half wait and into a "fast lane" that got us through in less than 10 minutes, just by calling over a friendly customs officer person.
9:30 AM – In transit to Oxford Brookes University. Stuffed in a bus similar to the good ole St. Joe's vans/buses. Very weird being on the left side of the road. Also, all the vehicles here look much more economical, more aerodynamic, not many SUVs.
11:00 AM – Arrive at Oxford Brookes. Dorms are crazy nice. They are kinda like the suites but each person has their own room, with their own bathroom. Then within the suite they have a common room for the four people that live there that comes with two leather couches as a lounge area and on the other side is a full kitchen.
2:00 PM – After a much needed nap sesh, we walk over to get a tour of the "Sports Centre" where we will be playing a couple of our games. The café (where we will be getting all of our meals) is in the same building. They have a really cool rock climbing wall as well with multiple rooms of different levels of difficulty. John Wassenburgh '96 reminded us how valuable this trip is and how lucky we are to be here. It's very cool having alumni pitching in and helping us go on trips like this. Scot Vachon '09 is here as well. Unfortunately for them, both will be receiving the smack down in tonight's alumni game (vs Wass' old professional England team). Even if we are running on 2 hours of sleep…
7:30 PM – Scrimmage time! First opportunity to play some sort of opposition since March. It was good to all be on the same side again, rather than butting heads like we had been doing every day in practice and pickup. We ended up winning the game by 30+, Matt Medeiros went off from beyond the arc (naturally) and we played fairly well, although there is much to be improved upon. Looking forward to tomorrow's action, but for now, it's time to finally catch up on some rest.
STANDISH, ME - Senior guard Chris Petzy (Kensington, N.H.) has agreed to share his experiences while the Saint Joseph's College men's basketball team travels to England later this week.
The Monks depart for the U.K. on Tuesday, August 23rd and will return to New England on Wednesday, August 31st. While abroad St. Joe's will face the Bristol Flyers, Milton Keynes Lions, Reading Rockets and Hemel Storm teams.
The trip, which is the Monks' first European Tour since the team visited the countryside of Finland and Sweden in the spring of 1981, begins with a game against the Bristol Flyers of the English Basketball League (EBL) at Oxford Brookes University on Friday, August 26th. The Monks face Milton Keynes of the British Basketball League (BBL) the following day at the Milton Keynes Arena and the Reading Rockets (EBL) at Oxford Brooks University on August 29th. The overseas trek concludes with a game against the Hemel Storm (EBL) at Hemel on August 30th.
While overseas, the Saint Joseph's College coaches and players will also conduct a pair of one-day basketball clinics at Oxford Brookes' Centre for Sport - one for 17-20 year-olds and one for 14-16 year-olds.
The team also plans on doing some sightseeing during the busy slate of games, practices and clinics. The coaching staff and players will ride the London Hop On & Hop Off Double Decker Bus Tour and while aboard they will see the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, London Eye, The Palace of Westminster, and the Churchill War Rooms along many other noteworthy attractions.
The Monks Insider link can be found under the "Traditions" tab on the main navigation bar of the GOMONKS.com website and all blog entries will be posted on the Monks Basketball home page during the trip. All past Monks Insider blogs can be found here.
All of Petzy's blog entries will also be posted on the Monks' Facebook and Twitter pages.