The last time the men’s basketball team traveled overseas in the preseason was in 2007 when Coach Brian Meehan took the team to Italy. That season the Judges advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly 30 years.
This year, forward Alex Schmidt ’14, alumnus John Saucier ’08 and Director of Athletics Sheryl Sousa ’90 are chronicling the team’s two week trip through Croatia from Aug. 14 to 25.
In a recent blog post on the Brandeis Athletics website, Schmidt wrote, “basketball…got underway earlier this August, with 12 returning players eager to prepare for two goals this upcoming year: a University Athletic Association title and – more importantly – an NCAA championship.”
The team will look to defend both its and America’s basketball reputation abroad as they face off against Croatian teams in preparation for the upcoming season.
The team faced Croatian club KK Kastela in its first game on Aug. 16. The Judges had some early trouble against Kastela as they adapted to the different European rules regarding post-play, screening and traveling; however, they quickly adapted and took a commanding 13 point lead into the fourth-quarter of play.
In the fourth quarter, the jet lag and fatigue from a 20-hour overseas trip started to catch up to the Judges as their lead began to evaporate, resulting from defensive failures and miscues, giving Kastela a chance to win the game in the closing minutes. Fortunately for the Judges, Ben Bartoldus ’14 led the defense down the stretch as they bounced back and fended off Kastela 73-70 to secure the first victory of their overseas trip.
In the next two games on Sunday and Wednesday, the Judges faced KK Sonik Puntamika and KK Sabok respectively. Both games were extremely physical and the humidity and heat only served to amplify the physicality. While the Judges came away with the win in the first game, 59-56, the combined effects of the heat and fatigue from their intense travel schedule finally caught up to them in the second game as they suffered the first international loss under Coach Meehan 74-64.
The Judges hope that the team bonding and international play that helped them advance to the Elite Eight in 2007, will assist them in accomplishing the team’s goal in 2012: a NCAA championship.