Indiana Wesleyan University Men’s Basketball Canadian Journey with President Jim Walker

Wednesday October 16

An excited Indiana Wesleyan team departed at 8:30 am from Marion, Indiana for their day long bus ride to Niagara Falls, Canada. The hungry and tired team arrived just in time for dinner at the Skylon Tower Summit Buffet overlooking the Falls lit with colored spotlights in spectacular fashion. After eating and viewing the falls along with a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, the team made their way to the very comfortable Courtyard by Marriott hotel for a good night’s rest.

Thursday October 17

Following a great breakfast at the hotel, the team boarded the bus and headed toward their Hornblower Niagara cruise straight into the mist under the Canadian Falls. Riding into the mist was truly a breathtaking experience and was like being in a torrential downpour. Despite the ponchos everyone was wearing they were still soaked at the end of the cruise. Everyone then went for a walk along the Niagara River rapids, where the extremely fast river current travels at up to 50 km/hour and roars so loud that it is hard to talk to the person next to you. After picking up sandwiches for lunch the team continued to the TownePlace Hotel and Suites in London. They then enjoyed a great pregame steak dinner at Moxie’s Grill before continuing to a game against Western Ontario University. It was a great game decided in the last minute. Indiana Wesleyan led throughout the game and was up by seven with 4 minutes to play. However, Western went on a run to end the game and defeated the Wildcats 76-74. After some post game pizza, the team returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

Friday October 18

After breakfast, the Wildcats drove to Guelph University for a morning practice on the court where they would play on Saturday night. They then practiced on the brand new 2,200 seat Athletic Centre basketball court in preparation for next night’s game against the Gryphons. Afterwards they drove into Toronto where Hawaiian Bobby, their bus driver, took them on a bus tour of Canada’s largest city with about 3 million residents. After virtually covering the entire city, the team stopped at the CN Tower for a trip to the top for some spectacular views of the city and Lake Ontario. The gorgeous sunset was particularly impressive. The team then drove on to Brampton for dinner and checked into the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

Saturday October 19

In the morning the team enjoyed breakfast before driving to the Black Creek Pioneer Village for an axe throwing competition amongst themselves. The competitive nature of the players resulted in a very spirited event and lots of fun for everyone. In the afternoon the players and coaches rested in preparation for their upcoming game. In the evening game the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead against the Guelph Gryphons and led by 11 at the half. Guelph made a run in the third quarter to close the gap to 2 before Indiana Wesleyan outscored the Gryphons 16-3 in the last 3 minutes of the quarter to lead by 15 at the end of the third. The Wildcats led by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter before clearing the bench and winning by a final score of 103-90. After a short drive back to the hotel, the team retired for the night with a long drive home coming up in the morning.

Sunday October 20

Up early the next morning, the team packed up their bus for the return drive to Marion, Indiana and Monday classes and practice. They took with them their memories of some excellent competition and great team bonding experiences that helped them prepare for the upcoming season and a run in the post season.

Viterbo University Women’s Basketball Canadian Journey with President Jim Walker

Wednesday October 16

An excited Viterbo team departed LaCrosse, Wisconsin in the early morning, for their day long bus ride to Niagara Falls, Canada. The hungry and tired team arrived just in time for dinner at the Skylon Tower Summit Buffet overlooking Niagara Falls, which was lit with colored spotlights in spectacular fashion. After eating and viewing the falls along with a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, the team made their way to the very comfortable Courtyard by Marriott hotel for a good night’s rest.

Thursday October 17

Following a great breakfast at the hotel, the team boarded the bus and headed toward their Hornblower Niagara cruise straight into the mist under the Canadian side of The Falls. Riding into the mist was truly a breathtaking experience. It was like being in a torrential downpour and despite the ponchos everyone was wearing, they were still soaked at the end of the cruise. Everyone then went for a walk along the Niagara River rapids, where the extremely fast river current travels at up to 50 km/hour and roars so loud that it is hard to talk to the person next to you. After picking up sandwiches for lunch the team continued to the Welland Canal Center in St. Catherines where the they had a chance to learn about Ontarian history and see the workings of the Welland Canal which connects two Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie, as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. After lunch the team drove to London, Ontario for a game against Western Ontario University. After battling through a hard-fought game which neither team led by more than 3 points, the Lions fell behind at the end to lose by 15 points, 92-77. They then enjoyed a great post game steak dinner at Moxie’s Grill, before continuing to the TownePlace Hotel and Suites for some much-needed sleep.

Friday October 18

After breakfast the team traveled to Toronto for a guided bus tour of Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Janet, their tour guide, provided them with an interesting look at Center city Toronto, including Toronto University, multiple sports venues, city hall with its iconic Toronto sign, and several of Toronto’s many ethnic neighborhoods. They then enjoyed lunch at Fran’s, a popular city diner. From lunch the team went up the CN Tower for some amazing views of Toronto and Lake Ontario. Then it was on to Paisano’s, one of Toronto’s great Italian restaurants where the head waiter Jesse treated them like royalty. Following this great day in one of Canada’s great cities, the V-Hawks checked into the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Brampton for a restful evening.

Saturday October 19

On a beautiful Saturday morning the V-Hawks made their way into Old Town Toronto for a walking tour with their guide Adam, a native Englishman, who had a typical English sense of humor. He gave the ladies a funny and informative tour of the Old Town teaching them everything from religion, dogs, architecture, and history. Next, they had a great time with a team axe throwing competition won by assistant coach Kris who threw so well he must have been secretly practicing. After lunch at the amazing St. Lawrence Market, the team headed to Guelph to take on a very strong and undefeated Gryphons team. Falling behind early, Viterbo was never able to get it going offensively and were defeated 95-43. On the way back to their hotel, the team stopped for a post-game dinner at the Mandarin, a fabulous buffet restaurant, before returning to the hotel.

Sunday October 20

Up early the next morning, the team packed up their bus for the return drive to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Monday classes and practice. They took with them their memories of a great team bonding experience that will help them throughout the upcoming season as well as future seasons.

Ashland University Women’s Basketball Iberian Peninsula Journey with Managing Director Jeremy Walker

Wednesday August 14th

After their overnight flight the group arrived excited and ready to explore Portugal and Spain over the next 9 days. After meeting myself and our local partners from Portugal it was off to the hotel. Having taken a direct flight which arrived in the morning rooms were not ready yet so everyone left their bags in a secure room and as a group headed down towards the river for a nice walk to get a feel of Lisbon. After the walk it was back to the hotel for lunch before heading into the center of Lisbon for a walking tour. They got a chance to learn about the city which would be their hub for the next few days while walking around and learning some history as well. After the walking tour everyone got some free time before dinner. Some used it to take the walk up the hill to one of the famed castles of Lisbon which has breathtaking views across the entire city, while others took the time to rest or shop. The group gathered together again before having dinner at one of the oldest monastery’s in the city. After dinner a very tired group returned to the hotel to call it an evening.

Thursday August 15th

A now well rested group enjoyed breakfast this morning before heading south to the ocean side village of Sesimbra. Starting at the old fort in which the town was built around, the team participated in a scavenger hunt through the city where they had to speak with locals in order to find some of the tasks and answer some of the questions being asked of them. Others did some shopping in some of the local shops and enjoyed a few beachfront cafes. After the allotted time to complete the scavenger hunt was up everyone joined together in the park and enjoyed some pizza and laughs about some of the answers. After lunch everyone enjoyed some free time which was mostly spent at the beach, and of course also eating some gelato for dessert. The next stop today was Cabo Espichel which provided views out to the vast Atlantic Ocean as well as back to the western parts of Lisbon far in the distance. Another cool part of this particular cape is that their is an old monastery and still working church which some got to enjoy on the short stop. Everyone back on the bus for one last stop which was in Setubal for a evening cruise with Dolphin Bay. This truly incredible experience included cruising out along the coast while enjoying the sunshine, jumping off the boat and into what many learned is the very cold Atlantic Ocean, as well as a Portuguese BBQ dinner cooked on the boat! After an incredible day it was time to head back to the hotel for another good night’s rest.

Friday August 16th

Time for some basketball to start the day today! It was a leisurely morning as departure was a bit later today. The group made its way to a local gym where today they were participating in Elite Camp which is known for producing some of the best Portuguese players year after year. While the team participated in everything from strength and conditioning workouts to on court drills with some of these Portuguese players the rest of the group took the morning to explore the Belem area of Lisbon before meeting back up with the team. A few tired legs were apparent after a few hours of hard work, but they were all way too excited for the next activity to not make their way quickly to the bus. The reason they were so excited is that it was time for surf school! Making our way to the beach the group was met by their instructors and eagerly started their course first learning some basic skills on land before heading out into the water. Smiles, laughs and a lot of fun ensued as they tried time after time, mostly successfully, to ride the waves. Once the course was complete everyone boarded the bus to head back to the hotel for dinner and a well-earned good night’s rest.

Saturday August 17th

Today, the last full day in Portugal, was spent just west of Lisbon in Sintra-Cascais, one of my favorite areas in all of Portugal. The first stop today was Cabo da Roca, or Cape Rock, which is the westernmost point of continental Europe. Although the wind was whipping quite a bit at this stop, and the sun was not out yet it was still an enjoyable experience and the group got to see just what some of the rugged northern Portuguese coast is like. The next stop was the fishing village of Cascais where they got some time to explore the city as well as have an excellent lunch along the main promenade. After lunch people went their separate ways to shop, check out the beach and also get some dessert. Everyone gathered back together and it was on to the final stop of the day in Sintra, Quinta da Regaleria and its beautiful gardens, fountains and secret passageways. After the group took the somewhat grueling walk up to the entrance a few went their own ways to explore everything the gardens had to offer. Eventually everyone met at the bottom of the gardens, happy they didn’t have to walk the hill again, and made their way back to the bus to return to the hotel for one last dinner in Portugal.

Sunday August 18th

Everyone was up and out relatively early today since we had a long drive to Madrid, our next stop. After breakfast and loading everything onto the bus we started the drive east with a few pit stops along the way while also stopping for lunch in Elvas just before the border with Spain. One thing of note is that upon crossing the boarder (which these days in Europe is just a sign) you have an immediate time change of 1 hour. So if you cross at 2pm it immediately becomes 3pm after getting into Spain. A few more stops, and even a team stretch at one rest stop, and the group finally arrived at their hotel in Madrid in time for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

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Monday August 19th

This morning the group was met by a local guide and started out by taking a scenic overview bus tour of Madrid so that she could explain certain things about the city. After that they were dropped by the bus at the Royal Palace and it was time to get a more intimate view of the city with a walking tour while making their way towards lunch. After exploring the city on foot a well-earned typical Spanish lunch hit the spot before moving on to one of the world’s most famous museums, The Prado. Our local guide continued her excellent service by taking the group through the museum before allowing for some free time to explore the parts she couldn’t get through, unless of course you spent an entire week in the museum! Once everyone had finished in the museum the group headed back to the hotel for some rest as it was again time to play basketball!! The game this evening was against Olimpico 64 and even though this was their first real game of the trip The Eagles started fast and didn’t stop pulling away for a 73-39 victory. After the game it was back to the hotel for a well deserved dinner and relaxing evening.

Tuesday August 20th

Today took the group outside of Madrid to the city of Toledo the former capital of Spain. Everyone’s favorite local tour guide was back with the group again this morning to lead them on their exploration of the former capital city. Upon arrival and a brief overview as well as a stop at Mirador del Valle, known for its spectacular views of the city, it was time to explore on foot. The hilltop city boasts many spectacular sights, but the cathedral is always at the top of the list for visitors and it didn’t disappoint again. After lunch it was time to return to Madrid in order to have some time to rest before another game tonight, this time vs. Madrid All-Stars. Tonight’s match-up was a bit tighter, but the Eagles certainly never got rattled on their way to a 80-70 victory, their second of the trip. After the game the group returned to the hotel for dinner and another relaxing evening.

Wednesday August 21st

Today was a free day for the group to enjoy Madrid and do some last minute things which maybe they hadn’t had a chance to do yet. Many of the group enjoyed some shopping, and it sure was easy to see that due to the number of bags in peoples hands when we all met for lunch. Others explored the beauty of El Retiro Park. After lunch myself and a group of 10 enjoyed a tour of the Santiago Bernabeu which is Real Madrid’s famed soccer stadium. The experience was unlike any other and was really enjoyed by all (especially me)! The late afternoon was again used for rest before the final game of the tour again against Olimpico 64 with a few different players arriving home from holiday. The Eagles however were again at their best and finished the tour off with a perfect record with the final score tonight being 84-53. After the game the group again returned to the hotel, but this time for one last dinner in Spain before an early morning departure home.

Thursday August 22nd

As is typical with departure day a very early wake up and trip to the airport is necessary. As with every trip you do the last day is always the toughest when you get to know a group as well as I did this one. Through some sad goodbyes I wished everyone safe travels after getting them checked in before making my way to my own flight home. This group was truly one of the best, classiest and most fun I have had the pleasure to work with. I am looking forward to watching what this team can do this year and can only hope that after welcoming me into your group as much as you did myself and Sports Journeys International were able to provide you with something you will never forget.

John Carroll University Men’s Basketball Irish Journey with Managing Director Jeremy Walker

Wednesday July 24th

After their overnight flight the team arrived at Dublin Airport ready to explore Ireland. After meeting myself and Peter, their coach driver/guide for the week, it was off to the west coast of Ireland and Galway, the first stop of the trip. After a stop for lunch along the way, the group arrived in Galway and got the opportunity to walk around a bit and gather their bearings of the city. After walking around the vibrant streets of the center of Galway everyone returned to the hotel in order to check in and have a bit of down time before a welcome dinner at the hotel. After dinner this evening most took the opportunity to head back downtown and explore the city some more. I took this opportunity to get to know the coaching staff a bit better as we explored some of the local pubs.

Thursday July 25th

After a good night’s sleep everyone gathered for breakfast this morning and got ready for the first tour of the trip. Today the group was headed down to the famed Cliffs of Moher! It was a beautiful drive along the coast followed by some twists and turns through the smaller windy roads of the Irish west coast and arrived at the Cliffs just as the weather was starting to clear. Most of the group scattered and took in the beautiful views from different areas of the cliffs. A group of about 10, including myself, decided to try to make the hike all the way out to the telegraph station at the far end of the point. The group gradually dwindled, but in the end 6 of us made the trek there and back. After a few hours spent around the cliffs, including lunch, everyone boarded the bus again to head back to Galway for a pre-game meal at the hotel. Tonight’s match-up was with local team Moycullen. It was a back and forth battle for much of the night before the pace of play pushed by the Blue Streaks became too much and the game ended 91-82 in favor of John Carroll. After the game members of both teams gathered together at the hotel for some pizza and getting to know each other a bit better. After all the pizza had been finished a few of the Moycullen players took some members of the group to a few of their favorite places.

Friday July 26th

After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Galway and make our way to the next stop of the trip, Westport. On the way out of town there was a quick shopping stop at Connemara Marble Factory before continuing northward through the beautiful landscapes of Connemara towards the first destination of the day, Kylemore Abbey. Some of the group took the time just to explore the Abbey and it’s different rooms and artwork, while others also spent some time in the beautiful Victorian Walled Gardens on the far end of the property. For lunch today they were in for something special as they boarded a boat in the Killary Fjord and were treated to lunch and a trip up and down the fjord seeing some of the stunning landscapes along the way. A few members of the group even got the opportunity to drive the boat! After returning to land it was on the final destination of the day, Westport. After arriving and checking in to the hotel everyone was on their own to explore the city for the evening and this quaint town didn’t disappoint anyone.

Saturday July 27th

Today was a special day that everyone was looking forward to. It was the day that the group was set to climb Croagh Patrick, one of the most famous mountains in all of Ireland. It was also during the holy weekend which brings tens of thousands to County Mayo each year. A much needed hearty breakfast at the hotel this morning and then the short drive to the base of the mountain and the group set off towards the top. A few made it in record time, and what was even better was that today was one of the clearest days of the trip and so that made the group one of the lucky few who were able to see for miles when the reached the top. After everyone made it back down it was time to make the trip back across Ireland for a few days in Dublin. After a few hours, and a stop along the way it was time to check in to the final hotel of the trip and enjoy a welcome dinner. Once dinner had finished many in the group took the opportunity to explore the Dublin nightlife and a few of the oldest pubs in the world.

Sunday July 28th

After a bit of a later start today, which many used for rest after a long day yesterday the team was off to participate in a youth basketball clinic with Tuesday nights opponents, Templeogue. The turnout was great and all of the local kids were excited to get to interact with an American team and see how they would go through drills in their practices. After a solid two hours of hard work they ended with a fun game and a few giveaways before saying goodbye and heading back to the hotel to meet up with the rest the group. After grabbing some lunch at a few different places, including the famed Beshoff’s fish and chips, it was time for a walking tour of downtown Dublin. We split up into two groups, adults and players, and the wonderful local guides took the groups to the different famous sites throughout the city. Some of the most enjoyable parts were the explanations and places that were off the beaten path and mostly unknown to many travelers to Dublin. After the tour came to an end some went back to the hotel to rest a bit, while others took the time to explore some of the places they just learned more about before eventually returning to the hotel for dinner.

Monday July 29th

Today’s full day excursion took the group south to Kilkenny to see it’s famed castle, as well as another one of Ireland’s charming cities. Upon arrival at the castle we were led through by a group of wonderful guides explaining the vast history of the castle and what it might have been like living there in the various periods of history. After an excellent tour everyone went across the street for lunch at the Kilkenny Design Center, after of course stopping downstairs to see some of the local artisans work and make a few purchases. They enjoyed an excellent meal and it was then time to get to know the rest of the city a bit more by hopping on the mini-train run by Kilkenny City Tours. The funny/crazy driver lead the group through the city explaining how it grew to become what it is today and it was pretty much non-stop laughter the entire way. After the tour was over the group got the chance to do something not many do outside of Ireland, practice hurling. This very Irish game is hard to explain to those who haven’t seen it, but a few local kids were playing in the park and were nice enough to teach a few players and coaches how to hit the ball properly. A huge thanks to those two kids for sure. After this great experience we headed back to Dublin for an evening to explore the city on their own.

Tuesday July 30th

Today was another excursion day outside of Dublin, and also my personal favorite day of these tours to Dublin. After breakfast the group headed north to Brú na Bóinne to explore the ancient burial site of Knowth which is known to be older than even the great pyramids of Giza. After touring, and even having the opportunity to go partially into one of the chambers, it was on to the coastal village of Howth for lunch at a local pub and some free time to explore. The group gathered back together and headed back in to Dublin for some rest time before heading back out for another game this evening. Tonight’s game was against Templeogue at the National Basketball Arena. From the start tonight it was an extremely high scoring affair with 3 pointers being hit from everywhere which ended in yet another Blue Streaks win, 121-102. After the game finished it was straight back to the hotel as tomorrow mornings departure was very early. A few thank yous and goodbyes were enjoyed before calling it a night.

Wednesday July 31st

As I said today was a very early morning for all getting to the airport to check everyone in for their flights home. After a quick trip to the airport everyone said their goodbyes to Peter after an excellent trip. Then it was my turn to say goodbye before boarding my flight home. Although more of an until next time feeling with many of these goodbyes. I look forward to watching this team grow and hope that Sports Journeys International, and myself, helped them bond a bit more and have an experience they will always remember.

York College Men’s Basketball Canadian Journey with President Jim Walker

Friday October 12th

It was an excited group of players who gathered at York College alongside the Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center, joined by President Jim Walker, for a 3:00 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 at the Canadian border around 10:00 pm. It was a short drive to The Peninsula Inn Niagara Falls, CA for check-in.

Saturday October 13th

Following great breakfast at Sunset Grill, the team boarded the bus and headed toward their Hornblower Niagara Cruise around the Falls and a truly 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.

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The team then went for a walk along the Niagara River rapids where the extremely fast river travels at up to 50 km/hr and the waves are as high as 5 meters. Everyone was in awe of the powerful rapids.

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After picking up sandwiches for lunch, the team continued to The Welland Canal Center in St. Catharines. They arrived in time for a picnic lunch and a chance to observe a several large ships on their journey to and from Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Observing how the locks worked was very interesting.

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The team was then back on the bus en-route to their first game at Redeemer College in Hamilton, Ontario. The Spartans started out strong and led by 17 in the 3rd quarter. However, Redeemer’s relentless pressure allowed them to take the lead near the end of the game. York had opportunities to regain the lead but fell 3 points short at the end. Following the game, they shared pizza with Redeemer and then headed to Toronto and check-in at the Hampton Inn Brampton, their hotel for the next three nights. Next, the hungry team headed to the Mandarin Buffet for a gourmet all you can eat experience which everyone enjoyed immensely. Needless to say, sleep came easy.

Sunday October 14th

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, local tour guide Barry met the team in front of the CN Tower and joined the group for a Toronto city tour, exploring much of an exciting downtown Toronto.

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The team then enjoyed an excellent pregame lunch at the crowded and popular Fran’s Diner. Following lunch and a bus trip to Seneca College, the Spartans defeated the Seneca Sting by 10 points. It was a good win over the Canadian College National Champs as the team played much better than the day before. After the game, both teams joined together again for some subs and birthday cake for the Seneca coach. The team then went back into Toronto, Canada’s largest city with almost 3 million people, for some free time exploring the popular Dundas Square area. Everyone worked up a good appetite for the team dinner at Paisano’s, a local Italian restaurant.  The bus then took the team back to their rooms for some much-needed rest.

Monday October 15th

After breakfast at the hotel this morning the Spartans boarded their bus for a ride downtown to explore the Distillery District and Old Town Toronto. Despite a light rain the team enjoyed this part of Toronto that includes St. Lawrence Market, the Flatiron Building, and St. James Church. During the walk the team had lunch at Toronto’s Big Smoke Burger and enjoyed one of Toronto’s culinary delights, specialty hamburgers.

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After lunch they continued walking until they found their bus which then took them to their team-building activity Canadian axe throwing. This proved to be one of the highlights of the tour. Split into two teams they competed against each other by throwing axes at targets. Although a difficult activity, the team took it to heart and competed against each other with much “gusto”.

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Following a day of sightseeing and axe throwing they had a nice steak dinner at Moxies Steakhouse before driving to York University for Game #3. The Spartans saved their best game for last as they defeated the University division team by double digits before returning to the hotel for a final night pizza party.

Tuesday October 16th

After an early breakfast at the hotel this morning, the team braved the rush hour traffic and headed to downtown again for a ride to the top of the CN Tower and spectacular views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.

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After picking up subs for the return home, it was time to say goodbye to Canada. They arrived back at school with many wonderful memories and great experiences.

Marywood University Men’s Basketball Canadian Journey with Managing Director Jeremy Walker

Friday October 12th

It was an excited group of players gathered who at Marywood University for a 3:00 pm departure by charter bus towards Niagara Falls, Canada. Not before celebrating two very special birthdays of course. In route there was a stop for fabulous dinner at Mama G’s, in Rochester, NY, before arriving around 10:30 pm at The Peninsula Inn Niagara Falls for check-in. Upon arrival at the hotel Managing Director, Jeremy Walker was there to meet them.

Saturday October 13th

Following great breakfast at Sunset Grill, the team boarded the bus and headed toward their Hornblower Niagara Cruise around the Falls and a truly breathtaking ride.

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After picking up sandwiches for lunch, the team continued to The Welland Canal Center in St. Catharines. They arrived in time for a picnic lunch and a chance to observe a large ship in the lock on its journey to and from Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Observing how the locks worked was very interesting.

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The team was then back on the bus to the first game at Redeemer College in Hamilton, Ontario against Toronto University. After a hard-fought affair the result didn’t go the Pacers way in the end.

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Following the game, they shared pizza with Toronto U and then headed to Toronto and check-in at the Hampton Inn Brampton, their hotel for the next three nights. Next, the hungry team headed to the Mandarin Buffet for a gourmet all you can eat experience which everyone enjoyed immensely. At dinner Coach Mastroianni surprised the team with a once in a lifetime experience as a long time friend of his, now working for the Toronto Raptors, scheduled a visit to the Raptors practice facility. Needless to say, sleep came easy.

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Sunday October 14th

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, the team enjoyed an exciting ride to the top of the CN Tower and spectacular views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.

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The team then enjoyed lunch at Subway not far from the tower. Following lunch, local tour guide Barry met us back in front of the CN Tower and joined the group for a Toronto city tour, as the team explored much of an exciting downtown Toronto.

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After finishing the tour everyone said goodbye to Barry and were given some free time to shop and explore additional parts of the city. Not before a group photo at the iconic “Toronto” sign.

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Everyone had worked up a good appetite, after all the walking, for the team dinner at Paisano’s, a local Italian restaurant. After dinner the bus then took the team back to their rooms for some much-needed rest.

Monday October 15th

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, the Pacers headed off to their team-building activity Canadian axe throwing. This proved to be one of the highlights of the tour. Split into four teams they then competed against each other by throwing axes at targets. Although a difficult activity, the team took it to heart and competed against each other with much “gusto”.

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Once the competition had ended they boarded their bus for a ride downtown to explore the Distillery District, a rebuilt area that once was home to many whiskey distilleries.

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After spending a few hours exploring the team had lunch at Toronto’s Big Smoke Burger and enjoyed one of Toronto’s culinary delights, specialty hamburgers. After lunch, and a quick stop inside St. James Church, they found their bus which took them to Seneca College for their second, and final, game of the trip. Yet another hard-fought game didn’t go the Pacers way, but much valuable experience was gained this evening.

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After the game, both teams joined together again for some pizza and conversation. After another full day the bus took everyone back to the hotel for one final evening.

Tuesday October 16th

After an early breakfast at the hotel this morning, everyone packed up their things as it was time to say goodbye to Canada. Managing Director Jeremy Walker also said goodbye to the team before heading to the airport for his flight home. The team however had one last stop in Buffalo, NY at Anchor Bar (birthplace of the Buffalo chicken wing) for lunch. They arrived back at school with many wonderful memories and great experiences.

Drew University Men’s Basketball Canadian Journey with President Jim Walker

Friday October 5th

It was an exciting day as following classes the team, joined by President Jim Walker, gathered at Drew University in front of the Baldwin Gym for a 3:00 pm departure by charter bus towards Niagara Falls, Canada. In route there was a stop for fabulous dinner at Mama G’s, in Rochester, NY, before arriving around 10:30 pm at the Signature Inn Niagara Falls for check-in.

Saturday October 6th

Following great breakfast at Sunset Grill, the team boarded the bus and headed toward their Hornblower Niagara Cruise around the Falls and a truly 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 to The Welland Canal Center in St. Catharines. They arrived in time for a picnic lunch and a chance to observe a large ship on its journey through the locks from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Observing how the locks worked was very interesting. The team was then back on the bus towards the first game site, Western Ontario University in London. The games at Western were played by two Drew teams using a split squad system of two nine man teams that were named Drew and Rangers. In the first game Western Ontario defeated Rangers by 20 points and in the second game Drew defeated Fanshawe College by 7 points.

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Following the games, and a post-game pizza party for all teams involved, the team checked into the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in London and enjoyed a steak dinner at London Moxies. Needless to say, sleep came easy tonight.

Sunday October 7th

Following breakfast at the hotel, there was another double header in which Drew was defeated by Western Ontario and Rangers lost a close game to Fanshawe College. While the split squad teams did not produce great results it did allow everyone to get valuable experience on the floor. After the games, both teams joined together again, this time devouring a large number of party subs while getting to know each other a little better. Once everyone was done enjoying the food 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 at the Hampton Inn Brampton, 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.

Monday October 8th

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, local tour guide Barry met the team in front of the CN Tower and joined the group for a Toronto city tour, exploring much of an exciting downtown Toronto.

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After a great tour with Barry the group unfortunately learned that the overcast day had fogged in the top of the CN Tower and nothing could be seen. It was decided to set out on foot to explore some of the areas of the city they had missed on their bus tour with Barry. During the walk the team had lunch at Toronto’s Big Smoke Burger and enjoyed one of Toronto’s culinary delights, specialty hamburgers.

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They then continued their walk before finding the bus which took them to their team-building activity, Canadian axe throwing. This proved to be one of the highlights of the tour. Split into two teams they competed against each other by throwing axes at targets. Although a difficult activity, the team took it to heart and competed against each other with much “gusto”.

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After a whole day of sightseeing and axe throwing the hungry team headed to the Mandarin Buffet for a gourmet all you can eat experience which everyone enjoyed immensely.  The team returned to the hotel after the meal.

Tuesday October 9th

After breakfast at the hotel this morning, it was time to say goodbye to Canada and board the bus for the trip back to Madison. They arrived back at school that night with many wonderful memories and great experiences.

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.