Published: Dec 19, 2006 12:53 PM
Modified: Dec 19, 2006 12:53 PM
The high school basketball landscape had a distinct Australian flavor in Cary last weekend.
As part of an annual tour that takes Australian teams across much of the East Coast, several area high schools played host to touring Australian teams Friday night.
Â“I thought it was a great opportunity,Â” Cary Academy coach Jon Powell said. Â“It was a good opportunity to play against kids from a different country and perhaps play a different style of basketball.Â”
Caulfield Grammar, one of the largest independent schools in Australia, brought boys and girls teams, and each was playing a 10th game in 10 days.
Â“The Australian team is exhausted,Â” Powell said after his teamÂ’s 56-50 overtime win. Â“TheyÂ’ve played 10 games in 10 days, stretching from New York to North Carolina, so theyÂ’ve been sleeping in the bleachers since the game has been over.Â”
When they werenÂ’t sleeping, the Australian teams were able to interact with the teams from Cary, providing a cultural exchange of sorts for the athletes.
Â“It was cool hearing them talk and hearing their accents and stuff,Â” Cary junior Nick Debnam said. Â“We talked about them playing Mt. Zion and the Patterson School and a couple of schools up in New York and we talked about how they were doing.
Â“They seemed like they were really enjoying it. Some of them had already graduated and they were just playing for fun and they seemed pretty nice.Â”
Over at Hopewell Academy, the newly formed school hosted a team from Portland, Australia, for an early afternoon game. While Portland enjoyed a 104-15 victory over the Tigers, Hopewell coach Andy Pogach thought the game was a great experience and opportunity for his team.
Â“I didnÂ’t schedule it to win a game,Â” Pogach said. Â“I scheduled it to get a chance for our kids to interact with kids from another country. I think thatÂ’s huge, getting to meet kids from another country.Â”
During PogachÂ’s time as a manager for the University of Pennsylvania basketball team, he traveled to Spain in a similar fashion and thought it was a great learning experience.
Â“For me at Penn, a lot of what I learned wasnÂ’t from my classes, it was from on the basketball court,Â” Pogach said. Â“We went to Spain one summer. IÂ’ll never forget that trip. So on a smaller scale, I want to give that to these kids. Learning about life through athletics.Â”
Not only did the games allow the youngsters to enjoy a new culture, but it also allowed them to see different styles of basketball. What coach Powell saw was a team that was well drilled in the basics.
Â“[They were] fundamentally sound,Â” Powell said. Â“They donÂ’t rely on just one or two players. TheyÂ’d bring it down, regardless of the kind of defense we were running and run their set and all five players would touch the ball and theyÂ’d move the ball until they got a good shot.Â”
Debnam agreed with his coachÂ’s assessment.
Â“They were able to shoot,Â” Debnam said. Â“So they didnÂ’t run like most of the teams we play. Most of the teams we play are pretty athletic and drive, so we had to adjust and go to a zone against them.Â”
The Australians had to adjust to the athleticism of the Cary teams.
Â“Fundamentally a very sound basketball team,Â” Powell repeated. Â“[But] not terribly explosive, which is something that theyÂ’ve learned on their trip here, is that theyÂ’re not as explosive.Â”
On the girlÂ’s side, Cary Academy received one of its toughest challenges this season.
The one-loss Chargers got a tough fight from Caulfield in a 44-25 victory.
The experience was an enjoyable one for the teams involved and made Pogach wish that he could take his team on a similar trip at some point.
Â“Hopefully, someday, one summer we can take some kids overseas for something like this,Â” Pogach said. Â“TheyÂ’re very excited. ItÂ’s not just another game, thereÂ’s more to it. ThereÂ’s the interaction with the other kids, thereÂ’s the getting to learn about their culture.Â”
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