2k8 International Tour, Day 9: Athens

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.

Athens (March 2): Even after eight days of the tour, I continue to be absolutely stunned at the level of basketball among these 15 and 16 year old players.  At each stop, we are forced to only pick four MVPs but that gets more difficult as the camp goes into the second day.  Here in Athens, we have 30 players from nine different countries but they all play so seamlessly together.  During timeouts, there are often four or five country representatives behind the bench translating what the coach is telling the kids.  Once they are on the court, it becomes the global language of basketball.  The hand signals are the same, the head nods for the alley-oop attempt are the same, the eye contact for a pick-and-roll is the same and the high-fives ... well, they are everywhere this week.

We closed out the Athens Camp today in style.  Sixteen all-stars were selected from the group and they put on an incredible show.  From the very first play -- a quick no-look pass off the jump ball for a slam dunk -- the kids were ready to show off their skills in front of a crowd of nearly a thousand people.  We even had the Athens College dance team on hand for the timeouts.

In the afternoon, I ventured out with a few other staffers in search of an authentic Greek meal.  We walked from the hotel through the winding neighborhoods of Athens and came across a small town square with a huge street festival.  The crowd was enjoying the musical performances from the stage -- which were largely American songs -- under a beautiful blue sky and a 70-degree temperature.  We found a Greek restaurant in the square and sat down for one of the best meals I have had in years.  Between the Greek salads, kabobs and pita bread, you cannot get a more mouth-watering meal.

From there, we went to the Acropolis to explore the sites.  It was on my list of top 10 places in the world to see, so I was pretty excited to spend some time exploring the ruins during the afternoon.  While a lot of the area (probably the size of eight football fields) was under construction, it was pretty amazing to see the structures, architecture and detail of buildings a few thousand years old.  We were also able to have almost a completely panoramic view of the city of Athens below -- all the way out to the Mediterranean Sea.  I also had my photo taken in front of the Temple of Athena Nike -- a pretty good tie-in to finish off the tour.

The evening was pretty low-key as a lot of people were catching up on sleep from the week.  A few of us got together for a final dinner and then were were off to bed by midnight.  The bus comes at 3:30 am in the morning to start the trek back to Phoenix, Arizona tomorrow.  I will be on the road for 25 hours to get home -- a 3-hour flight from Athens to Frankfurt; a 10.5-hour flight to Denver and then a 2-hour flight back to Phoenix.  Wish me luck!

Raphael Chillious kicks off the morning session