2k8 International Tour, Day 1: Vilnius

From February 21st through March 3rd, a group from Jordan Brand will travel to Europe to select 12 players for the inaugural International Game as part of the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, April 19th at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  The following is a blog and daily photo gallery from Kevin Foley, who will be along for the trip.

Vilnius (February 23): I don't think any of the players were prepared for the amount of basketball instruction they were about to receive at the Sarunas Academy.  The day started out at 8 am with Tim Grover, Michael Jordan's former trainer, taking the kids through a three-hour strength and conditioning workout.  The drills tested many the player's limits with strength, endurance and agility.  It was an incredible insight watching a coaching legend, who helped the best player in the world, show these kids across the world tips on improving themselves as basketball players.  The 30 players represented 12 countries here at this regional site  (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belarus, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Slovakia, Netherlands).  Even though some of  the drills were extremely intricate, it was great to see the universal language of basketball making it easy for everyone to participate.

During the lunch break I had the opportunity to walk into the town of Vilnius.  As you may or may not know, Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union (broke off in 1990) and is located in the northern part of Eastern Europe.  It is a cold, dark place -- rained all three days we have been here -- but the people are very friendly and the architecture is absolutely amazing.  There are some of the most beautiful churches here.  Unfortunately, not a lot of people speak English and the language is very different.  You can walk through the city looking at the signs and not have a clue what any of the stores sell by their names unless you look in the windows.

During the afternoon session, Ganon Baker focused the players on skill development and basketball training techniques.  Anyone who has seen Ganon in action knows that he is a high-intensity guy.  He brought all sorts of equipment to help them during the drills such as boxing gloves ('you need to be able to score in physical situations') and large paddles to block lay-ups.  After the final session of Ganon's drills, the players are raced to the water station.  That pretty much sums up the intensity level.

In the evening, we broke the kids up into four teams to play a series of competitive games in order for our scouts to be start breaking down the talent.  We will have an all-star game tomorrow and then four MVPs will be selected to represent the regional camp at the Jordan Brand Classic International Game in April.  Stay tuned!!!!

The place was covered with Jordan Brand Classic