North Atlantic Basketball Academy Tours the United States

Tuesday January 30th

As the North Atlantic Basketball Academy’s plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, the twenty-three 15-18 year old basketball players were excited about their 15 day basketball and educational journey of the eastern United States. For many of the players it would be their first time on American soil and a fantastic opportunity to showcase their basketball talents. The group, from Dublin, Ireland, accompanied by coach and academy director (also acting tour leader) Dermot Russell and assistant tour leader Olga Trofimova, were met at the airport by Tom their bus driver and driven to their hotel for the check-in.

Wednesday January 31st

This morning after breakfast, the group (commonly called NABA) boarded their bus for a short drive to Tufts University for a practice session. Both the U20 team and the U18 team were able to conduct good practices in preparation for their upcoming games.

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After practice the group boarded the bus headed to Downtown Boston to meet their tour guide Peter and a tour of Boston. Following their tour and dinner in Quincy Market, the team was able to find tickets to see the Boston Celtics play. After the game, a tired group made their way back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

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Thursday February 1st

Today NABA was on the move again. This time they were headed to Springfield, Massachusetts home of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a self-guided tour of the museum. For three hours they immersed themselves in the interactive exhibits, skills challenges, and shooting contests.

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From there they headed out for their first games in the US just a couple of miles away at Commonwealth Academy. Both the U20 and U18 teams competed against Commonwealth Academy’s teams on a fun night for all. It was then time for a good night’s rest at their hotel as they would be on their way tomorrow to Providence and the National Prep School Invitational Tournament.

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Friday February 2nd

After breakfast the bus departed for Providence, Rhode Island. After unpacking for their three-night stay they made their way to Narragansett High School for an U18 game with the US Naval Prep JV team. Following a pizza party for both teams, the group returned to Providence and Rhode Island College where the U20 team played its first game in the NPSI Tournament against Ridley College Prep from Canada.

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Saturday February 3rd

It was an early wake up and a short drive back to RIC for another U20 game. This time the competition was one of the top teams in the US, Sunrise Christian Academy from Kansas. Onsite for the game today was SJI Tour Director Jim Walker who spent the rest of the day with the team. After lunch and some rest, the team traveled to Warwick, Rhode Island and a U18 game with the Bishop Hendricken’s JV team. Following the game both teams socialized as NABA was treated to a feast of typical cuisine from New England, clam chowder and crab dumplings.

Sunday February 4th

This morning the group took some time for themselves and some well deserved rest before the U20 team played an afternoon game with Thetford Academy, one of the best teams in Canada. In the evening gathered together to watch one of America’s greatest sporting events on TV, the Super Bowl.

Monday February 5th

After breakfast, everyone got back on the bus to the next destination, Clifton, NJ, just a couple of miles outside NYC. They got dinner and settled into their rooms before driving to Drew University, in Madison, NJ, for another doubleheader. The U20 team played the Drew JV team and the U18 team played the Drew club team. Jim Walker and the rest of the coaching staff at Drew were the referees for the friendly matches. Following the games both teams socialized and enjoyed a pizza party with their opponents.

Tuesday February 6th

This morning it was time to explore the big city. NABA headed through the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City for a day of sightseeing, shopping and eating. Following a bus tour with their guide Matt, they took a guided cruise around the island of Manhattan and an up-close view of the Statue of Liberty. They ended the evening on their own for some additional shopping and eating in Chinatown, Little Italy and Times Square.

Wednesday February 7th

After spending 2 days in the NYC area NABA moved on to their next city, Philadelphia, for a tour of the City of Brotherly Love with their guide Luanne. After the tour, the team enjoyed some famous Philly Cheesesteaks before heading to their hotel for some well needed rest. A snow storm had hit Philadelphia during the day, cancelling games for both teams at Devon Prep. Instead the team went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch St John’s defeat Villanova, the #1 team in the US.

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Thursday February 8th

The next morning NABA was on the road again headed to America’s capital, Washington, DC and a tour with their guide James. After some time to explore the group headed to Alexandria, VA where their hotel was located. Both teams then had the opportunity to train with a local coach at a nearby gymnasium.

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Friday February 9th

This morning after breakfast the group made its way to Woodstock, VA in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. This evening the U18 team played the Massanutten Military Academy JV team as the U20 watched and rested for the next two day’s at The Grind Session Tournament at MMA.

Saturday February 10th

Following a restful morning the U20 played MMA, the #1 prep team in the US. It was another excellent opportunity to compete against some of the best prep basketball players in the world and gain an understanding of what the NABA players needed to do to further their careers.

Sunday February 11th

It was an early morning for NABA and another chance to compete against top level competition. In the first of five games on the day at MMA, NABA played S4G Academy from North Carolina. After getting a chance to watch some of the other four games, the group headed towards their final destination, Baltimore, and a hotel near Baltimore Washington International Airport in preparation for the next days flight.

Monday February 12th

On their final morning the group had a chance to sleep in and then pack up for their return trip to Dublin, Ireland. After checking out of the hotel, they went first to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a relaxing afternoon of sightseeing, last minute shopping and eating. Finally the time had come to head to the airport and the return journey home filled with great experiences and lasting memories.

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The College of Wooster Men’s Basketball Celtic Journey with Managing Director Jeremy Walker

Saturday October 7th

The team arrived from the US into Dublin Airport where they met up with several early arrivals from other parts of the US, myself, and their coach driver, Trevor, who would be with the group for the entirety of their time in Ireland. The bus, with its 40 group members, headed west to Tralee for their first night in Ireland. They checked into the Brandon Hotel and were treated to an excellent welcome dinner before heading to their rooms for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday October 8th

Following breakfast this morning the team conducted a youth clinic at Tralee Sports Complex for around 100 local children along with the Tralee players who were coming off a last second Super League win the night before. The rest of the group that didn’t join the team for the clinic took advantage of some time to explore Tralee. After the clinic finished, both teams went to a local pub to enjoy a quick lunch. Once lunch was finished it was a quick stop back at the hotel in order to pick up the rest of the group as well as their uniforms for the game this afternoon vs. Garvey’s Tralee Warriors. The team had seen and heard about the atmosphere for games in Tralee, but because of the late arrival the night before they were not able to experience it for themselves. Well, today for the Wooster game the fans of Garvey’s Tralee Warriors didn’t disappoint. The stands were packed and the introductions even included a light show with music, a fog machine, and the Irish National Anthem played on the bagpipes. A hard-fought game by both teams saw Wooster start off slow, but eventually overtake the Warriors, pulling away in the end. After the game the entire group returned for dinner at the hotel again. Following dinner, many of the group went to meet up with a few of the players and coaches from Tralee at a local pub owned by two members of the Tralee team.

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Wooster players working with local kids on their shots.
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Over 100 children showed up for the chance to work with players from both teams.
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Outstanding crowd ready for the match up.
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The teams together after a tough game.

Monday October 9th  

Following an early breakfast at the hotel, Trevor drove the team back to Dublin Airport for the short flight to Edinburgh. The group boarded their Aer Lingus flight arriving in Edinburgh around 14:30 and were met by local tour guide Joe and coach driver Stevie. Joe filled everyone’s minds with great information about the lovely town of Edinburgh as Stevie navigated from the airport through the city seeing many of the major sights. A few quick stops for pictures and some additional information from Joe at Palace of Holyroodhouse, Holyrood Park, and Edinburgh Castle left the group just enough time to check into The Ibis Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile before dinner. After a quick turnaround followed by a short walk up the Royal Mile everyone enjoyed a locally sourced meal at Howies Victoria Restaurant. Following dinner many in the group went their separate ways to enjoy the free evening of exploring Edinburgh.

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Views of Edinburgh from Holyrood Park.

Tuesday October 10th

After a relaxing breakfast the group started the walk up to Edinburgh Castle for a tour at 09:30. After about an hour and a half to explore the Castle and its wonderful exhibits the group gathered outside the Castle to walk down to the beautiful Saint Gile’s Cathedral, often called the Church of Scotland and the mother of Presbyterianism. This stunning cathedral certainly leaves an impression and after some time to look around everyone left before the start of mass. After lunch on their own, the group gathered back together, in front of The National Museum of Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland is a can’t miss when you are visiting Edinburgh as it has so much to offer, especially on the history of Scots themselves. After exploring the exhibits, the group took advantage of the free time until dinner to see more of the city as well as get some shopping done. At 16:30 Stevie was ready and waiting outside the hotel to take the group to a pregame meal at Jamie’s Italian Restaurant. This was a meal that was truly enjoyed by one and all, but quickly, as it was time to focus on this evenings game vs. the Scottish National Select Team. As the Scottish National Team gets ready for the upcoming Commonwealth Games they welcomed Wooster for an exhibition which was played in Stirling, Scotland about an hour North of Edinburgh. Since not everyone gets the opportunity to see their national team play all the time the venue was quickly sold out with enthusiastic fans. Basketball Scotland were gracious hosts and did their very best to try to top the atmosphere provided in Tralee. Scotland proved a little too strong on the evening, but the contest was so good that for the fans both teams agreed to play a 5th quarter which allowed both teams to get everyone involved. After the game was over both teams enjoyed some quick pizzas and laughs before returning to the hotel.

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The team outside of Edinburgh Castle.
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View from a top Edinburgh Castle.
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Staring out across Edinburgh.
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Saint Gile’s Cathedral.
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National Anthems before the game against Scotland Select.
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Second half action.
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The teams under the flags after the game.

Wednesday October 11th

This morning was a much more relaxing morning, where many took the opportunity to do one last shopping run. Around 12:00 everyone boarded the bus as today’s journey was taking the group southward into England. The first stop of the day was Holy Island (only accessible during low tide) and the Lindisfarne Priory. After taking time to explore the site of the old priory and the settlement along with a small museum dedicated to the monks of the island, the group boarded the bus again to continue south. Next stop was Alnwick Castle which to this day is still inhabited by the royal family of the area. Everyone took time to explore the castle and the associated gardens and tried their best to see everything they could. The long journey continued onward to a pregame dinner at The Joiners Arms, a wonderful small-town pub. After dinner there was still an hour to go until the final destination, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and the third game of Wooster’s Celtic Journey vs. Team Northumbria. Team Northumbria turned out to be one of the toughest opponents yet for Wooster as they had an excellent team, but in the end Wooster was able to hold them off for the win. After the game the group drove back to Edinburgh, arriving just as Wednesday became Thursday.

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Lindisfarne Priory
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The entire group in front of Alnwick Castle.
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Alnwick Gardens
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View from above against Team Northumbria.
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Enjoying another win.

Thursday October 12th

The earliest morning of the trip was upon the group as departure for Edinburgh airport was just after 06:00. A quick breakfast and the group was on their way for a return flight to Dublin. The group was again met by Trevor at the airport and he drove the group to their Dublin hotel. Upon arrival at The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel many in the group took advantage of the time until dinner to grab a quick lunch and rest from such an early morning. A small group headed into the city with Trevor where they were able to do some shopping and exploring before returning to the hotel for another pregame meal. Once the team had filled up it was time to head from the hotel to the National Sports Complex where they would be competing in their fourth game of their Celtic Journey vs. Griffith College Swords Thunder. Upon first arrival everyone was in awe of the complex itself as these were top notch facilities utilized by many of the national teams in various different sports. Yet again, Wooster came out on top this evening pushing their record on this tour to 3-1. After the game both teams joined together for some pizza and good conversation. Afterwards everyone returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

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Tip-off at the National Sports Complex.
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Some end of the half action.
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Second half action.
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Another wonderful opponent.

Friday October 13th

This morning after breakfast the group was met by local tour guide Odlie for a city overview tour. After showing the group around the city, Odlie had a museum she really wanted the group to see in order to prepare them for the following days activities outside of Dublin. Once the tour had finished and people had taken in the exhibits at the museum it was time for lunch. The group was able to explore the area around Grafton Street, and were able to enjoy some nice lunches. After lunch it was time to head back to the hotel because today’s fifth and final game of the tour was in the afternoon against The North Atlantic Basketball Academy. After a very quick stop back at the hotel just to pick up uniforms the group arrived at NABA’s headquarters for the afternoon game. NABA is a group who brings in young student athletes from around the world to help them prepare for opportunities at a higher level. Although Wooster mostly over-matched NABA, both teams were able to get some valuable lessons from the game. After the game the group returned to the hotel with a little time to relax before dinner. After dinner most of the group utilized the free time to explore Dublin.

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Wooster taking on NABA.
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Second half action.
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Both groups together after the game.

Saturday October 14th

One last day to explore the Emerald Isle and make memories on their Celtic Journey. Today was a day to explore outside the city of Dublin with the first stop of the day being the town of Howth. This small fishing village is on a peninsula just outside of Dublin with great views of Dublin, when the weather cooperates, and luckily today was one of those days as it turned out to be beautiful. After deciding what they wanted to do, the group split up with some going into the town to walk around with others braving the cliff walk to see one of the oldest lighthouses in Ireland. While the walk out to the lighthouse is quite long, the spectacular views along the way certainly make it worth it. With it being right around lunch time before heading off to the next destination most of the group went to the same fish and chips place, because when in a fishing village why not get fish and chips! The rest took the time to explore a small daily market which also included food. Once everyone was back on the bus it was off to the next stop, the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Center, to see the ancient Neolithic burial chambers of Knowth. The visitors center had a great museum that provided you with the history of the chambers, which you could explore before the guided tour left for Knowth. After a shuttle bus ride, the group arrived at the burial chambers and was provided with an excellent history and tour. Some of the players were even able to get a firsthand look at some of the passage ways they made to escape when they were attacked. After the tour was over the shuttle took the group back to the visitor’s center and some last-minute purchases were made before boarding the bus to head back to the hotel. The group took some time to change and get ready for a farewell dinner at a local Dublin Pub. Our friends and partners at Chaka Travel and NABA helped set up a wonderful farewell dinner where everyone could enjoy a nice Irish meal along with some drinks and music while reflecting on the fun times over the last week. Eventually it was time to call it an evening for many who returned to the hotel, while others stayed out to enjoy Dublin for one last evening before they headed home tomorrow.

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The village of Howth.
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Views from the cliffs walking towards the lighthouse.
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The lighthouse.
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Knowth
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The team after getting a view inside the chambers.
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A few of the many rocks that made up the structures.

Sunday October 15th

Again, they had a nice relaxing morning and breakfast at the hotel before packing up the bus one last time and heading to Dublin Airport. It was time for me to bid adieu to the team and the group one last time on this wonderful Celtic Journey. It was truly an incredible experience with an amazing group of people I will not soon forget. I look forward to watching this team grow and hope that Sports Journeys International, and myself, helped them get a head start on what will be a remarkable season.

Franklin and Marshall Men’s Basketball Canadian Journey with President Jim Walker

Friday October 6th

With great excitement in the air the team gathered at Franklin and Marshall College in front of the Mayser Center for a 1:15 pm departure by charter bus towards Niagara Falls, Canada. In route there was a stop for dinner at Applebee’s in Geneseo, NY before arriving around 10 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott Niagara Falls for check in.

Saturday October 7th

Following breakfast at the hotel, the team boarded the bus, taking them to the Hornblower Niagara Cruise to the Falls and a breathtaking ride. Riding into the mist from Niagara Falls was like being in a torrential downpour and despite the ponchos everyone was wearing they were still soaked. After picking up sandwiches for lunch, the team continued on to The Welland Canal Center in St. Catharines. They arrived in time for a picnic lunch and a chance to observe a large barge on its journey from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Observing how the locks worked was very interesting. The team was then back on the bus to the first game site at Western Ontario University in London. The long two days of travel had its effect on the team as a close game at halftime turned into a big win for Western in the second half. After the game there was a quick stop at TownPlace by Marriott to get checked in and then everyone enjoyed a team welcome dinner at a local steak house.

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View of the falls from the cruise.
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The team at Niagara Falls.
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Tip off at Western Ontario University.

Sunday October 8th

Following breakfast at the hotel, there was another match-up against Western Ontario University and this time the team met them in a controlled scrimmage. Today found the teams much more evenly matched resulting in 5 quarters of great basketball while also allowing everyone a chance to play. After the scrimmage, both teams joined together having a pizza party while getting to know each other a little better. Once everyone was done enjoying the pizza and Gatorade, it was time to get on the bus for a drive to Toronto, Canada’s largest city with almost 3 million people. On arrival to the Novotel North York, everyone checked in and then enjoyed a great team dinner at Paisano’s, a local Italian restaurant. After the meal everyone headed to their rooms for some much-needed rest.

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The teams together after the scrimmage.

Monday October 9th

After breakfast this morning local tour guide Barry met us at the hotel and joined the group on the ride to the Toronto Raptors practice facility, the brand-new state of the art BioSteel Centre. On the drive to the facility, Barry showed and explained some of the many neighborhoods of Toronto. Jama Mahlalela, one of the Raptors assistant coaches gave the group a great tour of the BioSteel Centre. Some of the things seen were the practice court, strength and conditioning room, and snack bar. The team was also able to sit in the team video room and ask Jama questions about how the team prepares for games and what the NBA season is like. After this wonderful experience everyone boarded the bus again to finish the Toronto city tour with Barry on the way back to the hotel. Lunch was had on the drive to Belleville and the third game against Loyalist College. After a competitive first half the lead began to lengthen in the second half. For the second straight day, everyone got a chance to play and played well. Following the game everyone headed down to the Lake Ontario waterfront to enjoy a seafood feast at The Boathouse. After enjoying another great meal, it was time to return to Toronto and the hotel for a good night of sleep before a long final day.

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The team touring the Raptors practice facility.
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In game action vs. Loyalist.
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The teams together after the game.

Tuesday October 10th

After breakfast this morning, the team got a chance to ride the world-famous Toronto subway system into downtown Toronto and the exciting waterfront area. After walking around the waterfront, it was time to head up The CN Tower for some great views of Lake Ontario and the city of Toronto from the highest structure in North America. After exploring the city for a little while, the team enjoyed a gourmet hamburger lunch. Then it was back on the subway and back to the hotel where it was time to load the luggage into the bus. It was a short ride to the final game of this Canadian Journey against a very good York University team. After a hard-fought battle, the team came up a little short losing in the last minute by 5 points. Following the game, it was time to say goodbye to Canada and board the bus for the trip back to Lancaster. They arrived back at school that night with a lot of wonderful memories and great experiences.

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The team at the Toronto sign in downtown.
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View from above at the CN Tower.
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Tip off at York University.