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 24): Well, the last day in Vilnius definitely turned out to be the most memorable. Our day started again on the basketball court at the Sarunas Academy at 8 am. We held the final round of team games as the Tar Heels emerged victorious over the other three squads. Our scouting staff could not get over how hard the athletes played the entire time. The intensity level was about as high as I have ever seen among high school athletes. Mid-morning, we announced the 16 all-stars who would participate in a game to close out the training camp. The action was also played at a very high level because all of the kids knew that we would be announcing the four MVPs of the camp who would be representing the region in New York City. Plus, the greatest star in Lithuanian basketball history, Sarunas Marciulionis, was in attendance. We were also very glad to see one of the top players return to the court after being sidelined yesterday with a very bad case of the flu. He was one of the four picked to go to the Big Apple.
As we closed out camp, the staff and players thanked each other for putting so much dedication into the two days. It was truly a team effort for everyone to get the most out of the event. The players were extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from Tim Grover and Ganon Baker and there is no doubt that everyone left with better knowledge on how to improve their game.
After a few hours of rest at the hotel, our staff was invited to dinner at Sarunas' lake house about an hour outside of Vilnius. He was an absolutely incredible host with some amazing food. It was a great time sharing stories and talking about ways to continue to enhance youth basketball in that region of the world. Sarunas was very thankful for Jordan/Nike to hold such an event in his country and to give four kids the opportunity to go to NYC. As our group was ready to leave, he even surprised us with an incredible fireworks show. It could not have been more impressive.
To get out of his property, we were required to take four-wheel drive automobiles through a very muddy stretch of woods to get back to our bus on the main road. Our group split into three vehicles, with yours truly in the lead one. However, ours got stuck in the mud about a hundred yards ahead of the others on the top of an embankment. You almost need to drive 60 mph through the path to get through the mess, but the darkness and cold weather made it tough to handle the cars. None of the other vehicles were going to make the attempt to pass us until the vehicle was moved from the road. After 20 unsuccessful minutes, we were forced to get out and make the walk to the end of the trail while they moved the car off the road. Four of us -- in pitch darkness using cell phone lights as guides --walked through a muddy path until one of the cars behind us finally got through 45 minutes later and caught up to us. It's that point when you wonder how you ended up in 30 degree temperatures in the middle of the woods in Lithuania at midnight.
Off to Rome -- bus leaves for the airport at 5 am tomorrow!