Published 9:33 am Thursday, August 11, 2022
By Josh Boutwell
This week the Troy University men’s basketball team returned from an eight-day foreign trip to Costa Rica to learn about the region’s rich history and culture, as well as get some basketball in.
The team started their trip on July 30 in San Jose, Costa Rica for five days – competing in three basketball games during that stretch – before heading to Los Suenos and then Herradura to close out the trip.
“It was absolutely an amazing experience,” Troy coach Scott Cross said. “I’ve been on two other foreign tours – to Vancouver and the Bahamas – in my career and this was by far the best.
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“We went on three adventures – whitewater rafting, zip lining and ATVs through the jungle – and they were about as good an experience as I’ve ever been apart of. We went 16 miles in three and a half hours (whitewater rafting) to some of the most beautiful landscapes, stuff you see on postcards. It was an amazing experience for all of us. It’s really hard to put words into it but it’s definitely something I will never forget the rest of my life and I think the guys won’t either.”
Cross said getting his players out of their comfort zone and coming together really helped to bond the team together.
“You can’t really put a value on the team bonding aspect of it,” Cross said. “When you do something like that and get out of your comfort zone like that, I think you have that bond together. I’ve never been in war but I know that’s the strongest bond you could possibly have.
“It’s not to that degree but when you’re doing something you never ever would do alone otherwise, I think you just begin to trust that person next to you and you’re not as concerned about stats or playing time because you value who that person is and what they do for the team.”
Jackson Fields (15) is one of Troy’s newest players. (Photo courtesy of Troy University Athletics)
Troy’s revamped roster includes a slew of new faces – freshmen and transfers – and with so many new faces, the bonding experience was invaluable for the Trojans.
“I was watching Auburn play Israel the other night and (commentator) Jay Bilas said he felt like the one week they spent in Israel is the same as an entire year of being together and I think I would probably agree with that,” Cross emphasized. “Your entire year of traveling on the road, you do all of that in like one week. Not all the travel through the airports and stuff but all the experiences and all the good stuff, you’re doing it all in one week.
“It definitely brings you closer and I think this is the closest group I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here at Troy in terms of our team chemistry and team bonding. You can feel it and I’m really excited for the season.”
Along with going on adventures in Costa Rica, the Trojans got to tour and learn some of the region’s history, as well as put on basketball clinics for area children, as well. A foreign trip for a basketball team would not be complete without some basketball, though. The Trojans played the El Salvador National Team twice during the tour and also played the Costa Rican All-Star Team consisting of former Costa Rican professional players.
“I thought it went really well, probably exactly how I would have expected it,” Cross said of the games. “The El Salvador National Team was probably the best of any of the teams I’ve faced in the three foreign tours I’ve done.”
Troy won all three exhibition games by a combined score of 273-173 but Cross said El Salvador definitely gave the Trojan some things to work on.
Zay Williams (10) dunks against the El Salvador National Team. (Photo courtesy of Troy University Athletics)
“The first game we beat them pretty good and they had one of their top players turn his ankle a few minutes into it,” Cross recalled. “We played them the next night and jumped out to a big lead again and I think it kind of (ticked) them off. They were able to cut the lead down to six in the middle of the fourth (quarter) before we pulled away again.
“It was probably closer than the score said and it was good for us because it showed me a few things we need to work on defensively. That’s good to find out before the season because you can make tweaks and adjustments but seeing how a team reacts to those changes live is a positive.”
Cross was also excited about the way his newcomers played in those games, as well.
“I thought they did really well. All of them can really play,” said Cross. “Jackson Fields had a really, really good game his last game. He grabbed some rebounds above the rim and had some great dunks.
“Andre (Young) probably hit four or five threes and Nelson (Phillips) did some things that will make your eyes pop out, things nobody on our team could have done last year with his athleticism and skill. (Darius) McNeil did some great things as well and Aamer Muhammad is as talented as anyone on our roster. We were pleased with all of them. I don’t think we were disappointed with how anyone on the team played. I thought everyone contributed in some form or fashion.”
Troy is off until October when practices begin for the 2022-2023 season.
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