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2k9 International Tour, Day 1: Travel Day

For the second straight year, a group from Jordan Brand will travel to Europe -- this time to Vilnius, Lithuania -- for a two-day training camp with 40 of the top prospects in the world from March 4-9.  Ten players will be selected as the Most Valuable Players from the camp and they will travel to the United States in April, along with six players from other regions of the world to compete in the second annual International Game as part of the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, April 18th 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.

Phoenix, Arizona (March 3): So I am going to start this year's blog by apologizing for last year's.  I never admitted it at the time in the blog, but I was very sick during the 2008 trip.  The night before I had left Phoenix, my throat started to swell up and 15 hours on airplanes didn't help my cause.  I spent the three days in Lithuania as miserable as I have ever been in my life.  I could not speak at all and I ended up on so much medication that the camp was a little bit of a blur.  So to say the least, I am definitely looking forward to my return visit to Vilnius this year to spend more quality time in a very beautiful city.

We will have a group of eight people traveling from the United States for the camp.  Our coaches will be Chris Thomas of SPARQ, legendary skill instructor Ganon "Two Claps" Baker and Raphael Chillious, who currently works for Nike but previously was one of the top high school coaches in the country.  Chill is the only coach to ever have three players go from high school right into the NBA.  That's impressive.  Speaking of impressive, Gentry Humphrey, the International GM of Jordan Brand, will be on-hand too and he is the former footwear director who had a major influence on Jordan sneakers over the last two decades.  Mike Hackman of Nike will oversee the basketball portion of the trip and Ilona Wiley of Jordan Brand is the group leader.  And last but not least ... my co-worker Marc Steigerwalt who will also assist with the blog and photo gallery.  It should be a very entertaining time.

I left Phoenix at 9:30 am this morning (Tuesday, March 3rd).  It was 87 degrees and blue sky.  I was told on our final conference call on Monday that it was -7 degrees in Vilnius with a high of 30 all week.  That will be quite a change.  I even soaked up a spring training baseball game on Sunday between the Giants and Brewers in Arizona to make the most of the weather before facing the chill.  My trip today will take me to Washington, DC, then on to Frankfurt, Germany and finally to Vilnius by about 1 pm on Wednesday.  Definitely a lot of time in an airplane seat.  I will touch base again when I get to Germany!

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Just when I thought that my seven-hour leg of the trip to Germany couldn't be more daunting, I took my seat on the airplane to see my neighbor clutching to a "barf" bag and sweating profusely before we even left the ground.  For the first 30 minutes of the flight, he kept the bag ready and open -- and cautioned me that I might have to surrender my coveted aisle seat to him for the flight if he needed to be closer to the restroom.  Lucky for me he fell asleep and later proclaimed that he was 100% recovered.  When we landed, he told me that he was connecting on to India.  Yikes.

A few observations on the day (since I basically just sat in a chair all day):
- Favorite Moment: Seeing a guy actually take a flask of whiskey out from his jacket pocket on my Vilnius flight and passing it around to his neighbors (aka "new friends") mid-flight.
- Puzzler: How people do not realize that they are the only ones with their overhead reading lights on at 3 in the morning.  Seriously.
- Stunner: My suitcase made both connections and arrived on time.
- Pet Peeve: People who push to de-plane out of turn.  What makes Mr. Row 20 more important than Ms. Row 18?

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Stay tuned!!!!