Click here to view original article - written by Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Kevin Thomas
STANDISH - When the St. Joseph's College men's basketball players sat down for their first breakfast in Oxford (England, not Maine), everything looked in order: eggs, sausages, hash browns.
Then a new dish arrived.
"Looked kind of like a brownie," Tom Ray said.
Teammate Nick Jobin took a bite. It would be his only one.
"Disgusting," he said.
Thus, the Monks were introduced to blood pudding.
Team captain Chris Petzy diplomatically called it "an acquired taste. It looked good, but then you took a bite. I wasn't a huge fan," he said.
But the Monks were hugely appreciative of the opportunity.
The team returned last week from an eight-day trip to Great Britain, a time spent bonding, learning a new culture and playing a little basketball.
"For me, the basketball was probably the last part of it," Monks Coach Rob Sanicola said. "Obviously, it was the part that got us there."
College teams occasionally take offseason trips abroad -- the NCAA allows teams to make such trips every three years. But the St. Joseph's men's team has not left the U.S. since 1981 for a trip to Finland and Sweden.
These days, when college students routinely study for one or two semesters abroad, most student-athletes -- especially during the winter season -- cannot make such commitments. But they can make short visits.
"An unbelievable experience," said Ray, a senior from Cape Elizabeth.
The team stayed in Oxford but ventured to London for a day to catch the sights.
"We traveled in a double-decker bus," said Jobin, a sophomore from Westbrook. "Awesome."
They played pro and club teams, going 2-1 in three games.
"The basketball was a lot different from (in the U.S.), where we have a lot of one-on-one," said Petzy, a senior from Kensington, N.H. "They are really fundamental. It seemed all of them could shoot the ball."
Petzy said the sightseeing was good, especially the blend of old and new architecture. But the real bonus was immersing in the culture -- "you find out a lot just by being around people" -- and watching the team grow together.
"We built a lot of chemistry," Petzy said.
Sanicola said the trip was three years in the making, with alumnus John Wassenbergh, a former South Portland High standout, playing a huge role. Wassenbergh (Class of 1996), once a teammate of Sanicola ('99), played in Europe and Korea after college. He played for the Oxford Devils, and a teammate, Keith Kelly, is the Director of Sport at Oxford Brookes University where the Monks stayed during their trip.
Wassenbergh joined the team on the trip. He was one of about 30 alumni who helped finance the trip, according to Sanicola, along with family, friends and benefactors.
"I'm already thinking about the next trip," Sanicola said.
SEAN COSTIGAN is following his father's footsteps as a basketball coach. Costigan, a Cheverus High graduate who played for the University of Maine and then Stonehill College, was named an assistant coach at St. Joseph's.
Costigan's father Dan is an English teacher at Cheverus and has coached basketball at Cheverus, the University of Southern Maine and Southern Maine Community College.