Associate Head Coach Stan Jones, Sophomore Guard Luke Loucks, and Director of Basketball Operations Jacob Ridenhour blog from their foreign tour to Spain courtesy of Nike. Check out their entries and see photos from the trip below.
Entry 21: Luke Loucks
The last blog is upon us... we are almost to Tallahassee and would probably already be there if the bus driver didn't make a wrong turn which he apparently thought would be a short cut. Then again, I wouldn't do much better so I'm not going to point fingers. An extra 30 minutes isn't going to hurt anyone.
Yesterday the coaches gave us the day to do pretty much whatever we wanted. Me, Reid, King Solomon and Derwin "Kitchypoo" Kitchen began to walk around the bustling streets of downtown Barcelona sometime in the early afternoon. Our plan was to eventually stroll down to the beach, which a bystander said was no more than a 15 minute walk. After going through various shops and buying souvenirs for our friends and family we began what we thought would be a short journey to the beach. After 25 minutes of walking we came to the Christopher Columbus statue which stands tall above the port of Barcelona. We took some really funny pictures with the lion statues that surrounded the Columbus statue as other tourists watched us and enjoyed our humor as entertainment. We even ran into some other Americans who just so happened to be Maryland fans. We may have rubbed in the fact that we beat Maryland last year.
After walking another 10 minutes we spotted the rest of the team making their way to the beach as well. We all got together and hit the street shopping together to see if we could find any deals. A group of about 20 foreigners, possibly illegal immigrants, had a portable version of China town set up near the port. They laid out their products laid out on a sheet and had ropes tied to the sheet so they could scoop up their belongings and take off running if any policia where in the premises. Bargaining with these people made for some good memories. We frequently saw a group of 20 or so take of running with santa-like pouches behind them throughout the day.
After another 15 minutes of walking we finally made it to the beach of Barcelona. Even though the walk in all was well over 3 miles and took about an hour more than expected (we were walking at a fairly slow pace) it was well worth it. The beach was absolutely beautiful and packed to the limit. It was near impossible to even walk through the beach unless you were in the water because of the amount of people that populated the shores. We got many funny looks as our group of nine abnormally tall basketball players strolled the beach. After a few minutes of sweating up a nice musk we all made our way into the water and had some fun. We have video of us throwing Kitch up into the air for a successful back flip in the water, which drew a crowd of spectators. All in all, it was a fun day at the beach.
For the rest of the day we kind of just roamed around the great city of Barcelona, shopped, and had fun visiting the stores and the people in the streets. Although we walked several miles it was a fun and relaxing day. Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a good time. The streets were packed with people and several entertainers populated the sidewalks of downtown as they dressed up in different outfits and did different skits. We saw break dancers, a soccer guru juggling soccer balls, many different far out outfits (some a little too far out there) and some magicians.
This morning we woke up at around 7 and had to catch the bus to the airport. Everyone was pretty worn out and not looking forward to the long journey ahead but everyone also wanted to get back home. The flight ended up being about 10 hours. I would tell you some funny stories but I don't have any because I slept for the majority of the time. Sorry, but a brother needs his sleep.
This trip to Spain was an unforgettable experience. Everyone on the team grew closer over the course of the trip and I know everyone had a great time. This is the first team I've been on in quite some time where everyone on the team, down the line from top to bottom gets along and enjoys each other's company. I look forward to this synergy showing up on the court as we pursue a national championship in 2010. In basketball terms this trip surely pushed us ahead as we were able to practice an extra 10 times and get a head start for the 09-10 season. Although we did handily win all of our games these games were good for us as we were able to practice things that other teams can't. We put in several new schemes that we didn't have in place last year and were successfully able to improve them throughout the trip. Hopefully we will be able to carry this momentum over into pre season and into the beginning of our season this year.
Everyone on the team is grateful to Nike, our coaching staff, and everyone who supports us to make this trip possible. Without their time and effort something like this could have never been accomplished and because of them we have experienced a trip that many people can only dream about. I hope that my blog didn't bore you too much and that you got a closer look at the way our team operates and conducts itself. I also hope that our Seminole fans are looking forward to the upcoming season as much as our players are. We will see you guys in November!
For the final time...
- Luke Loucks
Entry 20: Jacob Ridenhour
Saturday: 5:43pm (Spain)...11:43am (EST)...over the Atlantic. I just woke up from a six hour nap on the plane and we have two and a half hours to go.
Since my last update we have been on cruise control...no team meals, no bus rides or events as a group. We had our Barcelona tour and our game on the 20th and since we have only had scheduled rendezvous meetings to take head counts... Coach Hamilton wanted to let everyone explore Barcelona independently.
Most of the guys took advantage of the opportunity to walk down the Rambla and make their way to the Mediterranean beach. Deividas said they were taking in the sun, but from what I heard they were taking in the sites of the beautiful people on the beaches. The water there is gorgeous and as blue as imaginable, but the sand is not exactly what we see on the Gulf...it's extremely brown and looks almost like dirt.
One of the neat things about Barcelona, is the massive size and congestion of structures all through out the city...there are buildings, marble, concrete or bricks everywhere. Building, sidewalks, and plazas as far as the eye can see. (As for all three of the cities we visited, there is was no grass to be found almost anywhere. Grass is almost solely on roof tops and soccer fields...). For my free day yesterday, I jumped out of bed and hit the pavement. I had visions of seeing every thing the "most beautiful city in Europe" (not sure who to cite here, but it seems to be the opinion of everyone here) has to offer. I did get a few things under my belt but with the size and magnitude of the city, my object was not going to happen.
Barcelona has a cable car which crosses over the sea port over the water and the city...and I jumped on that as my first objective. It was a beautiful site to be up and look down over the city, but when I got to the top of the tower (highest point in the city) I started to think about safety, risk management, possible lack of governmental regulations, and when and if this antique looking cable car system had been serviced...and once we were moving my excitement of the ride shifted to the thought of: "OMG" I sure would like to get to the other side quickly. But I made it, took some really neat photos, and ended up right below the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics...and speaking of the those Olympics and for all of us adults in our party we can't help but think about MJ, Magic, Bird, Barkley and the "Original Dream Team"...but as Chris Singleton mentioned on the bus "that was 17 years ago" and these guys were in diapers...so none of our players had the joy and recollection of that squad...yes we are all creeping up there in years. These guys think of Jordan as a shoe brand, Barkley and Magic as TNT and ABC announcers, and Bird as the GM for the Indiana Pacers...but that year was really the global break out for basketball and the NBA...and am I the only guy who remembers the one huge issue with that team was not winning, coaching or anything on the court but the drama came when Reebok had the licensing for the Medal Ceremony uniform and all of the NBA guys had issues with shoe their individual provider contracts...and as a result either had to fold their collars down or drape American flags across their shoulders to cover the branding marks.
Next I checked out the artist, Gaudi's structures and grabbed some Americana coffee in between stops. One of the other deals is what to drink here. There isn't the same selection we have in the states and it's no big deal the first couple of days, but in the second week Fanta limon or orange, Coca Cola, Coca Cola Light (yes that's diet to us), expresso, and really no other options beside alcoholic beverages (and we avoid those) really starts to wear on you after a while...it will be nice to walk into a convenience store and be able to take 10 minutes to decide between which beverage you desire...
Afterwards my small group set off on foot heading for the hotel...we strolled the streets and did some serious window shopping while taking in the sites, sounds and people of this thriving city. We found some good things and saw interesting memories everywhere...but it will be nice to return home and walk down the street and not see a street vendor, animated mine, money hustler, a pick pocket, not being approach by ladies of the "oldest profession known to man, avoiding a guy carrying a six pack of San Migel (beer) and offering to sell one for 1 euro, no one selling bootleg Prada bags and sunglasses on a bed sheet, but all the male compadres on this trip will miss walking down the street and everywhere you look there are beautiful women as far as the eye can see...(if in doubt ask anyone on our roster).
In all honesty our group is full of mixed emotions...everyone is stoked to be going home: our beds, our families and friends, our normal foods, Harry's for lunch on Monday for Fly and I, and maybe most importantly being able to read every sign and menu without asking for the English version (and they are all directed toward the British version). It definitely becomes taxing after 10 days of traveling and not knowing what you are reading and what the people at the next table are saying.
But we have had a tremendous trip. First no one was injured, we had no international event or drama happen, we won all our games...everyone on the roster played pretty much equal minutes and Coach Hamilton was able to see almost every possible lineup configuration he could imagine. Coach was able to get a jump on some of his strategy ideas for next season...our guys were able get on the court and bond and become familiar with getting up and down with out last years go to guy, 1st Rounder Toney Douglas. Solomon and Chris are going to be fun to watch continue to develop into their potential...Jordan, Deividas, and Luke are really coming with their outside touch...Xavier is getting stronger and adjusting to giving us the minutes we need to get his production up (he is the point a minute man)...Derwin, Luke and Pierre showed us they can bring it up and get us into our offense like we need...and we all know what we get with our enforcer, Ryan, hard physical play and he is about to start hitting the glass harder...
Yet, with the basketball aside...the true spirit and purpose of this trip is to show our team a cultural experience. We have definitely hit that chord...as our tour guide mentioned prior; our team hit more cultural events than any team he has encountered. It seems like months ago since our first day in Madrid and the tour of the city...our visits to Real Madrid Soccer Stadium...the Prado Museum the 2nd day... the Flamenco Show...the bull fight...the street festivals...the FSU Study Center... (maybe the high-light) the Oceanographic and dolphin show...train ride up the coast...F.C. Barcelona game...and I am sure I am leaving some out.
Our group has had one of those trips which we will remember for a lifetime...we met new people and saw new places...we had experiences we will be able to build and draw upon all season and the rest of our lives. We were considering changing one of our events and Coach's response to me was "when will these guys be back here with this opportunity" and once again a wise man's wisdom was right. We will not be able to revisit or relive the experience we were able to share...thanks to our FSU Administration and the financial support of Nike we were able to have one unbelievable trip.
Now if the dreams and hopes our players have built on this trip come through, the next time you will have the opportunity to read my blogging will be in late March and early April with my inside scoop on advancing through the NCAA Tournament to Indianapolis.
On that note I will sign off...Ciao!
Entry 19: Jacob Ridenhour
Thursday 20th...today our game against Tougoloues (from France) is in Figeres, Spain...this game was going to be in France. The club had a huge event scheduled for us as an all day event but Solomon's visa is only valid for Spain and Coach did not want to leave Solomon behind, so the club came down to Spain.
Yesterday was a day full of "excitement" if you will. We had to have our bus loaded by 7:30 am outside our hotel so Juan Carlos (our driver) could drive to Barcelona and beat our train. The train was a great experience...in the States we are accustomed to getting individual tickets or boarding passes but here they sold one single ticket for our entire group. The seat assignments were listed on the individual ticket...so I grabbed some blank paper from the information desk and created a poor excuse of boarding pass for our group. The whole group thought it was a joke and made their share of sarcastic comments all day.
I grabbed a seat away from our group thinking it would be more relaxing so no one would be asking me constant crazy questions...questions that resemble: "hey do you know how many Euros it cost for those peanuts in the food car"..."do you know if the shrimp are deveined at the Argentine restaurant"..."do you know how far our hotel is from the chapel in the next city" (keep in mind we are not to the next city yet, and this is Spain and there are chapels on every corner)..."what is the salary of people in Spain"...just to name a few. So needless to say I was welcoming a moment to relax. And to keep my luck in the same direction, when I got to my seat, my neighbor had not seen a shower in quite sometime, and smoked at least a pack of cigarettes prior to boarding.
After crashing for a hour and a half nap I awoke for the second half of our train ride and headed for the food car...it was really cool but I wasn't feeling Pringles and a Coca-Cola Light. There were high-top tables to stand around and windows on both sides of the car with wide open views. It was breath taking to stand and watch the scenery from the country side as the train hugged the Mediterranean Sea. We were able to view numerous beach side towns and resort areas with hundreds of people...and even desolate beaches that looked identical to postcards. I think Luke brought it up earlier, but the beaches don't quite have the same dress codes...so as we passed some of the beaches there were men in the middle ages pulling a "Free Willy" every where...and I don't mean the Disney movie...not what I was hoping to see as we passed.
But I would tell anyone the train is worth the experience, the scenery and especially saving the extra two plus hours of travel time.
Arriving at the Hotel Catalonia on the Rambla was a warm welcome. I had been told our hotel in Barcelona would be beautiful, but let me tell you...I have never been so excited to find a bigger room and the icing on the cake was the shower curtain and water pressure too. The whole team was stoked, bragging about it with excitement...it was like a virus spreading.
Keeping with the theme of slipping away for no questions: I had my best meal of the trip in the La Fonde at the Olympic Port. All that fresh seafood we have been hearing about. Right on the dock and English speaking waiters what more can we ask...I heard about the restaurant from one of the trip organizers. But I was still so tired, I kept dozing off waiting on my check...in my defense, eating in Spain is a "process" and they are in no hurry to get you in and out.
When we met to depart for the soccer game our players had found the "Official" store for F.C. Barcelona and may have bought out their inventory. They were decked out in garb...they were set for the excitement.
A little FYI, if you go to the F.C. Barcelona game, their ticketing process is not the same as our ticketing process. You get a ticket to exchange for a ticket. After circling the entire stadium looking for our entrance...we all took what we thought was a ticket to exchange...(one of the ushers explained we need to take our "temporary" tickets and exchange them for the "official ticket"). It was a pretty interesting looking ticket and will be added to my shadow box compilation from this trip...it will be hanging in my office in a week or so...check it out if your over near the facility.
Once inside the game it was amazing how big the stadium was...people everywhere for an exhibition game...The interior of the stadium was not what we are accustomed to...not enough concession stands, no gift shops, and restrooms/banos were practically non existent...Dr. Reynaud in Sport Management would have definitely been disappointed, obviously not the same building codes we have in the States.
Today we knocked out a tour of Barcelona, and the city is not only beautiful but HUGE...it is massive. 3.5 million people and full of tourist. Our tour guide was fluent in English, a first for the trip, and filled us in on tons of information. But with the city so big we only were able to get a brief overview tour...as a side note our tour guide told us we had already seen the #1 visited museum in all of Spain, the F.C. Barcelona Stadium.
As our trip is starting to wind down there is a fact our various stops have delivered diversity and cultural engagement for every one. All three cities are unique in their own ways. Madrid the capital of Spain and center of diplomacy...Valencia, a hidden jewel on the coast...when you walk around there is a building on every corner over a thousand years old. The windows in these buildings are older than our country. Now, Barcelona...a true international hot spot...people from all over the world...and with out their native son Christopher Columbus the Seminole Tribe probably still be running Florida.
And before I run one funny story...make it two stories:
1) Everyone has warned us Barcelona is the pick pocket capital of the world...all of our guys were walking around protecting their pockets and threatening to chase anyone who tried. On the way to lunch Coach Williams emptied Ryan Reid's backpack (wallet, ipod, cell phone) and he never felt a thing...
2) Our graduate manager, Stephen Cowherd, was caught on tape actually working today during the game...our entire bench was up cheering and Coach Jones even took photos for his office.
As usual I will let the other guys fill you in on the game...
Entry 18: Luke Loucks
Last night we were blessed with the opportunity to not only see a pro soccer team play but see one of the top teams in the world play. We saw Barcelona take on Manchester City at Barcelona's massive arena. The internet is horrible here but I'll try to send a few pictures from the game to show you guys the massive size of the arena and how many people crammed in there to watch their team play. I went all out and purchased a Barcelona jersey and a killer hat before the game. I knew I would finally find a hat I liked over here. As soon as I set my eyes on it I knew we had a connection.
Barcelona started the game out with their reserves instead of starting a few of their best players. I know it was the first game of the year but I'm not sure why the coach did this. Once Manchester City put a goal through Barcelona's defense the coach decided he had seen enough. He subbed in a few of the starters to start the second half but when Messi started to warm up the crowd erupted. Imagine Doak Campbell Stadium fully packed against UF, and then add 25,000 more people and give everyone horns and whistles to blow and chants to cheer the entire game. It made for a good experience and I think everyone on the team had a good time. However, we didn't get to see Barcelona score which was kind of a bummer. I could only imagine how loud it would have gotten. We didn't stay for the whole game because weaving through 110,000 people on a two lane road with a tour bus isn't exactly a wise idea.
This morning we had a tour of Barcelona for a few hours. The tour guide was very nice and I think she was an aspiring chef or worked for the food network because she talked about food about 40% of the time. She took us around the city to see some of Barcelona's amazing architecture and entertainment shops. It is sometimes hard to do a tour in a busy city because everyone and their mother want to take pictures with some of our taller players, especially Solomon. After our tour we went to lunch at Hard Rock Café in downtown Barcelona. We munched down on some good American food even though we are 618,000 miles from home.
After lunch we headed to our final game in Spain. We had a far drive because we played a team from France and met them near France to play. After about two hours in the bus everyone was antsy to get off the bus and throw some balls into the peach bucket. The team we played was probably the best team or close to the best team we've played over here. They were pretty fundamental and could pass the ball really well. Even though the score doesn't show it, playing these teams was good for us. We got to work on our zone slides and our fast break offense, both of which we improved on. I don't think coach would have predicted we put up over 100 points every game but we really focused on pushing and kicking the ball up the floor and getting open looks with time left on the shot clock. Speaking of points, for the second straight game we scored over 120. I don't think we will be heading to another beach unless I'm mistaken, so we'll have to do with Coach Jones sporting the Speedo at our hotel pool. We are all looking forward to this.
We have about another hour on the bus back home but I'm kind of tired of writing and you're probably tired of reading so let's not drag this on any longer. Until next time, remember to eat your Wheaties and don't pee in the sandbox. I need to work on my closing paragraphs.
Update: Jacob just asked us when we wanted to go to the beach tomorrow. Jordan bluntly responded "Whenever Coach J is ready to strap it up." This actually might materialize.
Entry 17: Luke Loucks
I'm experiencing the first train ride of my life, and it's pretty much exactly what I expected. The closest thing I've come to a train ride previous to today was either the monorail at Atlanta airport, which will surely knock you on your feet if you're not holding on to something, or the train at Busch Garden's theme park. Both of these are pretty lame and don't offer you food or random Spaniards to sit next to so this definitely ranks as the best train ride of my life. There are some small mountains out of my left window and the Mediterranean Sea is out of my right window. The gentlemen sitting to my right, which just made Nate Engelhardt (our team manager), sit in a window seat even though he wanted an aisle, smells like he had one too many cigars this morning and needs some nose hair trimming. Other than that, the ride is wonderful. It's amazing how smooth this baby rides even though we have to be traveling well over 100 MPH. I'm not a mathematician so I won't attempt to convert this into kilometers per hour for those European readers but we are going fast.
Yesterday was a pretty relaxed day. We were able to sleep in again which is always nice. We decided as a team we would rather eat lunch at the mall than eat at a restaurant.
At lunch me, Reid and Solomon settled in at a nice Spanish buffet that had a nice variety of about every Spanish food you could think of. Throughout the course of the lunch we convinced our waiter we all played in the NBA and were in Spain for vacation. This wasn't too difficult considering the size of my companions. At one point, Reid acted like he was on the phone with Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers (originally from Spain). We then went on to fib that we knew Ricky Rubio very well and hung out with him a few nights back. The lunch was a lot of fun and hopefully the waiter realized that we were messing with him and didn't go try to look us up on the internet. At the table next to us one of the professional formula 1 race car drivers was eating lunch with a few of his buddies (not joking with you right now). The Spanish buffet at El Centro Commercial is popular hangout for professional athletes, I guess.
Last night we had our third game and our final game in Valencia. We played very well although the competition wasn't exactly ACC caliber. Regardless of the competition the coaches were pleased with the way we played and put up points on the scoreboard. First things first, Coach Jones decided at halftime that our little Speedo deal was only for the first two games we played. We tend to disagree with this and aren't going to let him back out of our deal that easily as we worked hard for those 127 points we put up last night. (For those of you who aren't regular readers: Coach Jones said he would wear a lime green Speedo to a beach if we scored more than 120 points.) Jacob Ridenhour, our Director of Operations) surprised us in the warm up line as he pulled out a blue European type Speedo from his backpack to get us excited before the game. Although the color isn't what we were looking for it will be sufficient. We will do everything in our power to make this happen and supply the world with pictures of Coach Jones, one of the top assistants in the United States, sporting a tight Speedo on the beaches of Barcelona.
Before the game Coach Hamilton challenged Reid to get over 10 rebounds "for the first time in this life." Personally I think Reid has accomplished this feat before in his life, but Coach Ham disagrees. He said if he didn't get over 10 rebounds he would have to walk back to the hotel by his self. Needless to say Reid snagged about 13 boards often knocking down our own guys in the process. He earned his way back on the bus with a Dennis Rodman like game.
After the game we were scheduled to go to a nice team dinner but we chose to go the per diem route again as the restaurant had a wait and we were all antsy to get some food in our bellies. The bus driver apparently had a date because he said he had to have us back to the hotel before 11:30. Our bosses gave us the option to walk the mile home after we ate or wait around for the bus. A small group of us decided to walk after a scrumptious KFC meal. On the walk home we stopped in a corner store for some beverages and midnight snacks for later that night.
Tonight we plan to go to a soccer game, which will also be a first for me. I've been to a few soccer games in my life but not on this scale. Barcelona, which I believe is the number one team in the world right now, will be playing Manchester City with a scheduled start of 10 PM. I swear these people don't sleep over here and it's starting to rub off on me. If you see me in the McDonalds on Tennessee Street at 3 in the morning don't blame me, blame the Spaniards. I hear the soccer games over here are one of the most exciting events you can ever witness so I have high expectations. I will be sure to take lots of pictures for you guys assuming my camera battery doesn't die due to the fact that Nate just took 129 pictures of the Mediterranean for me out of the train window.
Alright, I'm going to get in a little snooze before we arrive in Barcelona.
- Luke Loucks
Entry 16: Stan Jones
The FSU Seminoles started hot and never looked back tonight versus the Spanish club CLARET. The `Noles jumped to a 14-0 lead behind the hot shooting of sophomore Deividas Dulkys who led Florida State in scoring with 30 points hitting five 3-point shots. In the second half, sophomore Chris Singleton hit on three straight 3-pointers as part of his total of 11 points. There were seven Seminole players in double figures tonight as the Florida State men cruised to a 127-60 final score victory. Versus the CLARET zone the 'Noles made a total of 14 3-point shots with six other individuals each hitting one 3 ball. The hot shooting versus the zone allowed guard Luke Loucks to finish the game with 9 assist, followed by junior Derwin Kitchen again with 7 assists, and Pierre Jordan who accumulated seven assists as well. Senior Ryan Reid led all rebounders with 11 to go along with 13 points for a double-double. Reid was followed by Singleton with 7 boards and sophomore Solomon Alabi with six off the glass.
Scoring totals: Dulkys-30, Gibson-19, DeMercy-14, Reid-13, Kitchen-11, Singleton-11, Alabi-11, Loucks-9, Jordan-7
The 'Noles have an early start to the last leg of their our of Spain as we will be taking a train to the popular city of Barcelona where tomorrow night the team will get to experience European football as soccer power, FC Barcelona will take on Manchester. How about a 10:30 start for that one. Little different than the times we start our games in the USA. More details coming as we wind down this terrific experience.
Entry 15: Jacob Ridenhour
I know my amigos have been updating everyone and both have brought you guys up to speed. But I want to flash back to my last blog and update the Festival...it was a carnival/fair type of thing as expected. It had all the ingredients of what we as Americans are accustomed to: rides for the kids, quirky fair type contest with the balloons and ring toss, and fair food. But there were a few differences...
1) I have never seen a fair with electronic bulls for kids to ride
2) I saw more fedoras and bootleg Armani sunglasses (Assistant Coach Corey Williams was sucked into purchasing a pair, so when you see him rocking the "Armanee" sunglasses throw him a compliment...I'm sure his response will be "4 Euros")
3) I have never seen a Toys R Us at a fair, but they had more toys for sale on the street than Walmart on December 24th.
4) And there is no USDA or EDA (Espana Department of Agriculture) for that fact...because it's not every day you find rotisserie chicken, sausage, pig parts and good ole Peter Cotton Tail (grilled rabbit) in one venue.
The Oceanographic and the Dolphin was even more amazing than my sidekicks could possibly describe. Between the world class futuristic architecture and diversity of the animals it was definitely one of the cultural experiences of my life. I was here when I worked at Auburn in September 2002 (the 2002-03 season we were in the Sweet 16...mojo carry-over please!) and we stayed a block from the City of Arts and Sciences and the Oceanographic location. Only one of the structures was built when I was here. To see what the city of Valencia was able to accomplish in 7 years is truly phenomenal.
On a side note of my adventures yesterday...I brought the maximum amount of cash and travelers checques possible on the plane to Spain. And when you have 25 people and constant expenses one generally runs through that cash quickly. Two crazy things have been going on with my cash retrieval...cashing traveler's checques and using my debit card. What makes it most difficult is banks in Valencia are open 8:30 am - 2:00 pm Spain time...EST 2:30 am - 8:00 am in America...not exactly ideal for calling your local Wachovia branch.
While our group went to the FSU Study Center I was bank hopping in downtown Valencia. And if it weren't for Ignacio Messana (Director of FSU in Valencia) I would still be bank hopping Valencia. I went to five banks yesterday where I found every excuse in Spain not to cash my travelers checques...and if you are thinking why did you not use your debit card to withdraw cash I have your answer... Prior to departing Tallahassee I went by the bank to get my information set up to make sure the system had me down for International travel so they would not freeze my account...but every time I tried to use my card it would be denied.
Mr. Messana was helpful enough to interpret for me via my cell phone with the bank. He helped me find a bank that would give me cash so our guys could get dinner at the very least. (Since were taking the guys to the park we wanted to let them eat on their own so cash was needed...) So after 1:30 of bank hopping and a little help from Ignacio, from his Mediterranean beach vacation weekend, I got the travelers checques cashed and we were set for the evening.
I also had put the effort in to spend 45 minutes on the phone with Wachovia to discuss my issues with the debit card after I left the bank...my limit had been raised and my account noted I was abroad but still no luck on cash at the ATM/Telebanco (Spain style). On the bus ride to the Oceanographic I was on the phone with the bank again. I had no idea what I was in for with that phone call...1:45 later and being re-routed to the loss prevention department for the 4th time...I was informed of a form required by the bank to "approve" my international travel, and that form was not discussed at the branch before I left. So shortly after the operator had asked me the multiple choice security/identification questions for the 5th time in one day, I was informed for the second time in one day my card will work properly. But on this final conversation they were correct and my card now works and cash is readily accessible and now my life is much easier here fiscally.
And to give the bank credit, my guy Blake on N. Monroe Street, did call me before he went home to update me and also check in on my situation. That was a great show of customer service, which as we all know is a fleeting characteristic in business today.
Today has flown by...the guys got to sleep in freeing up time for the adults. I made my way over to the Santander bank where I got my traveler checques cashed and showed my FSU appreciation with a couple t-shirts for the ladies who were kind enough to help me. And also used their services to cash another round of traveler's checques. Then I made my way over to "The Phone House", I had to reboot my prepaid Alcatel mobile phone. Even found a better sim card bargain...Happy Movil...$0.47 for activation and 0.05 a minute there after (or so the sales lady "interpreted").
Then Plaza de Torros, for the outdoor market...I was able to find a couple of F.C. Barcelona "scarves" for the big soccer match tomorrow night. The market was adjacent to the train station we will be entering tomorrow for our train ride. I went in and checked it out so we will be able to stroll right through on our way to the train. Speaking of the train, Ignacio mentioned on the phone how beautiful the train ride is to Barcelona...he said it hugs the coast of the Mediterranean Sea on the way north. We should definitely see some amazing country side tomorrow.
After scooping up a few souvenirs for my nephews, Dylan and Logan, I reconvened with our tour host in the lobby to prepare for our game tonight. So as I prepare to make sure we are set for everything I must sign off and get the group set.
I will touch base from the train tomorrow.... "All Aboard"!
Entry 14: Luke Loucks
I'm a day behind on my journalist task and I'm starting to feel the pressure of writing this on a daily basis. I am on a very serious and rigorous schedule of hanging out in one of the most beautiful cities in the world while mixing in trips to beaches, bull fights, dolphin shows, and delicious meals. Then again, I told you I would eventually fall behind with these. Because of my slacking attitude I am going to combine the last two days into one.
Sunday- We started out the day with a tour of Valencia. This city is really remarkable. Although the tour guide spoke English it was hard to understand her at times. The tourist spots we visited pretty much spoke for themselves, but sometimes it was good to get some history. After walking around the city and taking lots of pictures for about two hours we hopped on a bus and headed to the beach. The beach was amazing but me, Jordan, Deividas, Xavier, and Jordan's family walked to get some lunch. After lunch we strolled up and down the beach and shopped at the hundreds of tent-shops they set up a little ways off the shore. Most of the guys purchased a few things here and there, usually paying far less than what the original price was. We have a team full of businessmen and wheeling and dealing is not out of the question when it comes to tent stores. Negotiating is just a way of life here. After this, all of the team met up down by the water to take some pictures and goof around. A side not: Valencia beaches may or may not require women to wear tops. Let's just say a few of the guys were trigger happy with the cameras. We headed back to the hotel for a siesta and an afternoon snack.
That night we took the bus about 45 minutes to another city. I have no idea what it was called or where it was but I know a lot of people were in this small town. A festival was upon us as thousands of people crowded the streets as the roads were blocked off. It reminded me of a fair, something you would go to as a kid. Music was playing loudly, carnival rides were everywhere and hundreds of shops were offering goods and trinkets as far as the eye could see. We were set loose for a few hours. A few of us discovered the best chicken spot this side of the Atlantic. After we finished grubbing we spread the word to everyone we knew about the rotisserie chicken right across from the kid's roller coaster. We surely made the mom and pop chicken stand about 500 extra dollars Sunday night.
After a few hours of roaming around, our group of 20 or so met up outside the bull fighting arena. We were all pretty excited even though it wasn't a true bull fight (man vs. bull until one dies). This event was more for the excitement of acrobatic people flipping over charging beasts. There was a few times where I was sure the bull would mangle a poor Spaniard but somehow the sneaky little fellow would escape every time.
Monday- We dragged ourselves out of bed by 1 and took the short bus ride to FSU's campus in Valencia. The people here were extraordinarily polite as they showed us the building where study abroad students "study." It was neat to see the classrooms, although this reminded me little time we have until we are back to school and made my stomach churn a little bit. After we were done touring the building and the dorms we walked to a fancy restaurant in a back alley and partook in a delicious lunch. Since we didn't get to sleep in until 1:30 and had to wake up early at 1, we had time for an afternoon nap.
Tonight we took the bus down to the Aquarium. From the outside the place looks like something from the future and is an architectural beauty. The aquarium itself was a lot of fun and the fish had a great time staring at Solomon, Xavier, and Reid. The shark tank was probably the most populated area but every different section had something special to offer. The highlight of the night, and maybe of the trip, was the dolphin show. If you've never seen a dolphin show you are probably making fun of me right now. If you have seen a dolphin show and it wasn't good, well, you need to come to Valencia and watch this bad boy. If these dolphins played baseball they would definitely be accused of hitting up the steroids. They flipped and spun and flew and talked to us in English. I didn't know a fish, or whatever category dolphins fall under, could swim that fast and be that athletic. Most impressive was that throughout the entire 45 minute show the dolphins never messed up. They knew exactly what to do at every moment and even swam with the synchronized swimmers in a breath taking show. This was extra impressive considering we can't run three transition plays without one of us messing up where as a fish can perform for almost an hour and not make a mistake. I think the coaches need to start feeding us live fish during the game. And ok, I have a soft spot for dolphin shows but I'm pretty sure everyone was extremely impressed with the show.
We are all excited to play again and itching to touch a basketball after a few days off. Hopefully we won't forget any plays or coach will be yelling "you're dumber than the fish at the aquarium." Personally, I wouldn't take this as an insult.
Talk to you guys tomorrow, maybe. God bless.
- Luke Loucks
Entry 13: Stan Jones
This morning we had the opportunity to visit the FSU-Valencia campus. They are on holiday but one of the reception employees named David met us and gave our guys a tour and history of the program. He then set up a wonderful lunch of Spanish paella which was originated in Valencia. Our guys enjoyed the dish very much even though some had never seen whole shrimp or mussels in shells, etc.
Earlier I failed to mention the director of the FSU International program in Valencia, Ignacio Salinas, attended our Saturday night game vs. C.B. Alginet. He spent time visiting with all our staff and players. He is a first class person as you would expect working for Florida State. We gave him a cap and a FSU basketball shirt and he cheered for our guys with great fervor. This program seems to be thriving and is a great part of the Florida State academic community.
This weekend was a national holiday in the country of Spain so we were able to take our guys to a huge street festival in the community of Xavitan. They had carnival rides, a street market, and midway style food. There were people and families everywhere. Our guys had a great time and loved some rotisserie chicken that they were still talking about this morning. After we spent time enjoying the festival, we headed across the way to the bull ring. This was not an actual bullfight but a bull gymnastics show. They had nine matadors (for lack of not knowing what they were called) who worked the ring as a bull was released into the ring. They would agitate the bull who would charge and they did all kinds of acrobatic maneuvers. They flipped over the charging bull. They sidestepped him. One actually jumped over the bull. They would test how far they could sprint across the ring as the bull charged them and jump the wall to safety. It was very entertaining and an extreme show of athleticism. Neither the bulls nor the athletes were injured but the bull did tear up pieces of the wall with their horns trying to get to the entertainers.
We have had an ever flowing schedule and schedule adjustments. We were to play tonight, but the game was moved so the team we are playing could get more of their players in their camp. So tonight we are going to one of Europe's great aquariums called the Oceanographic. We passed the building on the way to our game on Saturday and it is one stunning piece of architecture. Our tour guides tell us it contains a very impressive display of aquatic life along with great shows within.
Entry 12: Luke Loucks
Starting from where I ended the last blog... we ate at another American restaurant for our pregame meal, but it wasn't quite as American as Hard Rock Café in Madrid. Don't get me wrong, it was still good food, but it took Chris Singleton and I three minutes to explain that we wanted A1 sauce for our steak. How hard could it be to say A1 in Spanish, right? Wrong. It's harder than it sounds. After all of that, I ended up with some mayo-like sauce to put on my steak. Oh well, it was still good and Nike picked up the tab. One thing all restaurants have in common over here is that they have four drink options: cola (coke), cola light (diet coke), fanta (orange or lemon soda) and agua (water). Ice is a rare commodity and most of the time you have to ask for it. While Coach Williams enjoyed a 14,000 calorie banana split, most of us players filled our bellies with Steak, Chicken, or burgers. It was kind of like American food, but with a definite Spanish twist to it. For instance, I ordered some apple sauce on the side of my meal. Instead of regular apple sauce one would expect I got a bowl of apples with a tiny bit of sauce, I'm still trying to figure out what kind of sauce, on the bottom of the bowl.
Following the meal we got a little bit to walk around the city on our way back to our hotel. Valencia, at least what I've seen of it, is a beautiful city. The streets, even the alley ways, are super clean. They pretty much remind me of my apartment back in Tallahassee. No garbage on the floor, no laundry lying around, you could practically eat off of them... if you found the right food on the ground. Seriously though, the streets are clean, like the apartment after mom comes for a weekend visit clean. We apparently arrived in Valencia on a holiday. I figured this out after I noticed many of the stores were shut down in the city and I heard someone say it was a holiday today. I would have dressed up as Santa and gave away presents in the street, but I forgot my Santa outfit in Tallahassee, and that may or may not be the correct holiday they are celebrating.
On to the important stuff... we traveled about 45 minutes outside of Valencia to play our game. The gym floor was something like a green rubber material, and still didn't have air conditioning, but the stands were a little bigger and our shoes gripped the floor a little better. The team we played was very fundamental, well-coached, and had very intelligent players. Unfortunately our athleticism was a step ahead of theirs. Regardless, it was good to play a team that could pass the ball around because it made us really work on our slides while playing zone.
Once again everyone played well and gave all out effort. Derwin was the all-around man dishing out assists and snagging rebounds, Deividas was knocking down jumpers from Chinatown, Solomon was his usual self dunking and flying around with his elbows wide, Reid was pounding the glass and looking intimidating doing it, Xaiver used his length to his advantage and finished up a few shots, Pierre was playing stifling defense, Jordan was hitting jump shots and dunking the ball in transition, and Chris was spry (It's a new word I came across today, I'm not sure if it fits yet but look it up and let me know). I hit a few threes early but went cold in the second half and reverted to driving the ball in a little more. Jordan said I've attempted more shots the past two days than I did all last year. I tend to disagree, but I had to do the math in my head just to make sure. He was way off.
We have a bet with Coach Jones that if we manage to score 120 points in a game he'll go to the beach with us sporting a green speedo. He did this thinking that a team that averaged like 59 points a game last year had to chance to accomplish this feat. We were only two points off tonight and I missed two clutch threes down the stretch that would have put us ahead. Shame on me. I could hear him from the sideline saying "slow it down" multiple times as he realized 120 points was in the realm of possibilities. This is the one time I think Coach Ham didn't mind us not listening to Coach Jones, as he had a grin on his face while we raced up and down the court attempting quick shots. If we end up actually doing this I will be the first to have my camera ready and let you guys in on the fun.
After the game we got to hang out with the team and their fans at a small outdoor café next to the gym. They were all very nice and friendly, wanting autographs and pictures. Some even took off their shirts in hopes to exchange for some of our FSU gear, but we have a few more games to play so we couldn't. We traveled back to Valencia and ate a steak dinner at a very nice restaurant near our hotel.
We don't have any games for a few days so tomorrow will be a day of fun and relaxation. I'm pretty sure we tour Valencia and watch a bull fight tomorrow night. I could be wrong, but that's what I've heard we are doing through the grape vine. I've never understood why they say "That's what I heard through the grape vine," but it fits I guess. I thought people used to talk through string and can, I never knew grape vines were part of the mix. Ok, enough nonsense. I'll catch you guys on the flip side, whatever that means.
- Luke Loucks
Entry 11: Jacob Ridenhour
We are on our way to Xativa...
Its been a week long festival in the community of Xativa. Speaking with our guide Marta its what we consider to fair. Yesterday was a huge Holiday is Europe, not for sure why though so bear with us. So, most Spaniards have been vacationing this past week. Tonight is the culmination of this week long festival and vacation.
It will be interesting to see what type of foods and entertainment the other side of the world enjoys compared to what we have in the states. I can't imagine the activities being to different but I also can't imagine finding cotton candy and funnel cakes (Elephant Ears at Red Elephant).
The guys are stoked and full of questions regarding our visit to the bull fighting show tonight. This is not the typical Spanish traditional style where the matador kills the bull. This is a show for the festival where the guys in the ring with the bulls are athletes / stuntmen and are supposed to perform tricks to dodge the bulls.
- Jacob Ridenhour
Entry 10: Stan Jones
In our ever changing and evolving schedule, the `Noles played back-to-back nights. After winning in Madrid, the `Noles bused to the port city of Valencia getting in around 2:45 am. If our guys are fortunate enough to play in the NBA, they got a taste of the kind of travel involved and having to get ready to play again at a high level.
Playing again in a very hot European club gym, the `Noles went against C.B. Alginet. The `Noles started a little sluggish but led 17-10 at the end of the first period. Catching fire behind the hot 3-point shooting of Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys, who each hit two 3's in the period, Florida State outscored Alginet. 32-14 to take a 51-24 halftime lead. The athleticism of our guys took over in the second half pouring it on outscoring their opponents 67-31. The guys were motivated to reach 120 to try to put it on ole Coach Jones but Luke missed 2 3's on the last :45 seconds. They still can't get the edge on the associate head coach!
Six seems to be a good number for Florida State with six guys again in double figure scoring. Dulkys led the way with 22 on four-of-four from 3-point line. Other double digit scorers were Alabi again with 19, Singleton with 17 to go with 12 rebounds for a double-double, Jordan DeMercy with 16, Loucks with 14, and Derwin Kitchen with 11. Rebounding leaders after Chris had Ryan Reid and Kitchen with six each. Kitchen led the Seminoles with seven assists again. Very good team effort again. All nine players scored and rebounded. Reid and Gibson had six each and Pierre Jordan had points.
The guys feel good about our team and our excited to enjoy Valencia the next two days. Tomorrow they are looking forward to seeing a bullfight. We will work hard to get our fans some pictures of our guys enjoy this unique tradition of Spain.
Entry 9: Luke Loucks
It is Saturday morning and I'm waking up in Valencia instead of Madrid. They still speak Spanish here, and the cars are still small, but for the most part I feel the same. My legs are a little fatigued from last night, but as coach would say "I don't know why, you still didn't play any defense!" I would have wrote this blog last night on the four hour bus ride to Valencia, but someone forgot to charge their computer before we left.
Yesterday we woke up and ate a late breakfast at the hotel. They gave us some free time to roam the streets of Madrid before we had to meet back in the lobby in the afternoon to head to our pre game meal. We ended up eating at Hard Rock Café, which was a short bus ride away. I am starting to enjoy the way the Spanish food tastes, even if it is very different from our American diet, but it was sure nice to get some American food back in my system. It was even nicer to have a waitress who understood English and could communicate clearly instead of trying to point and say what little Spanish we knew to get the food we wanted. I have probably doubled my Spanish vocabulary since I've been over here, and I'm now at a solid 24-26 words. I knew I should have paid more attention in 9th grade Spanish II when my teacher kept reminding us that "learning Spanish will benefit you at some point in your life."
After our meal at Hard Rock we traveled back to the hotel to pack up our things and get ready for some basketball! After getting all our stuff together we headed for the gym. We usually start our warm ups about 75 minutes prior to game, and we have an entire routine that we go through. This gets your blood going, hopefully will help you get your shooting touch, and gets a nice sweat going prior to the tip-off. We didn't need much help on the latter as a sweat had started as soon as we entered the 85 degree gym.
After warm-ups we exchanged gifts with the team from Madrid. This is routine when you play international opponents and is expected prior to tip off. I'm waiting for the day that we forget to bring the gifts just to see what happens. It'll be like the Christmas that people get you gifts and they are waiting for a gift and you just smile and keep playing with your gift. In all seriousness, we gave them some nice fitted FSU hats, the same hats we've been asking to get for like 7 months. We got a nice little flag with either Madrid's or Spain's national logo on it. I couldn't figure out which one.
This trip is meant to improve our skills as a team, so coach made it clear that everyone will be getting near the same amount of playing time, and the starting lineup will differ in every game we play in. We started off the game fairly well, playing good defense and getting open looks on offense. Our defense created a lot of offense for us throughout the game. The second quarter we gave up more points that we would have liked. We were practicing a new zone defense that we have to take advantage of our outrageous size and length. At one point in the game everyone on the floor was 6'5 or above. We are still working on the rotations and this got the opposing team some good shooting looks. They utilize the pump fake very well and almost always knock down their open shots over here. At half time we were leading by 15 I think.
In the second half we stepped on the gas pedal, stepped up the defensive intensity, and got a bundle of fast break points. Our energy led to many high light dunks and open shots due to drive and kick outs. Everyone contributed in their own way as a full team effort led to the victory. The game was tough on our bodies because the gym was so hot and the floor was so slippery, but it's a good experience to have to overcome some difficulties in order to win. The gym isn't always going to be comfortable and exactly how you like it.
We are about to head to our pre game meal in a few minutes. Playing back-to-back games in unfamiliar territories will be interesting but exciting. I'll try to write another one of these tonight after our game.
- Luke Loucks
Entry 8: Jacob Ridenhour
11:25 pm...Highway E-901...somewhere between Madrid and Valencia.
I am going to try and pick up where I left off...last night we took the guys to Café Chinitas (www.chinitas.com) for dinner and Flamenco Dancing. I was a little worried the place might be a little touristy for our players, and I knew going in if the dancers were attractive it would be a homerun. And you might say it was a Grand Slam.
All the guys were thrilled with the food...it was the first steak they ordered well-done and wasn't still "moo-ing" when it came to the table. Pierre Jordan and Xavier Gibson have been having such trouble with the cooked meat's temperature I even introduced them to a different way to order steak..."BUTTERFLIED" - slice it down the middle and throw it to the fire. Pierre came and tracked me down in the back of the restaurant to help explain to the chef. And low and behold...two steaks cooked all the way through.
Back to the show...the dancers and musicians loved having our guys at the show. The host placed our players' right in front of the stage so while our guys were smiling, cheering, clapping and stomping to the rhythmic guitars the ladies were giving it a little extra toss of the ruffles... The dancers enjoyed it so much they invited our team on stage for a photograph (emailed to Chuck)...except they got more than they bargained for...once they got on stage Solomon and Coach Hamilton decided to cut a little rug themselves...After the show walking back to our hotel at 11:30pm Solomon came over and told me he enjoyed the show and the ladies so much he wants to write them a poem about how much he enjoyed the show.
Next the guys were entertained with one of Coach's favorite night before activities, curfew...so our staffed ended up posting up in the lobby of the hotel lounging in the sofas discussing the wonderful trip until 2:30 am.
Today...was game day. First one of our Spanish Tours...not quite the routine we are accustomed to in the states. What usually would be film, breakfast and a meeting all in a private room, was done European style...breakfast in the restaurant with the rest of the people staying at the hotel. We did put all the guys at one big table and were able to talk to them privately...we had no film so it simplified the process.
Pregame generally 4 hours before tip...was not the usual either. Generally, Coach Hamilton is extremely health conscious and likes to make sure our guys get their appropriate nutrients...but we went a little astray this time around. Coach Hamilton decided to lounge at the hotel (the way he's eating here he is going to drop 15 lbs till we get back)...so we went with the good old flavor of the USA...Hard Rock Café Madrid! I thought Michael Bradley (Strength and Conditioning Coach) was going to have a stroke...he was so excited to take back a "Hard Rock T-shirt" for his girl. The service was a change from what we have been getting: great, friendly and speedy...they spoke fluent English...and was a nice surprise to what we have been doing lately with broken Spanish and hand signals.
Speaking of hand signals...Michael Fly and I went bank hopping (trying to find English speaking bankers who could exchange more U.S. Dollars for Euros) mid-morning and yes, we were using the most jacked up form of sign language and even resorted to a piece of paper and diagramming (anyone who knows me well knows I love to pull out a pen and show you visually)...but it worked: Euros to go.
On the way back to the hotel, we thought we spotted Dunkin' Donuts...Fly's face lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July. BUT, I will repeat a huge but...not exactly the same Dunkin Donuts coffee. I have always heard and read you can get the same coffee at any Dunkin Donuts in the world... Fly and I will attest the DD on Gran Vila in Madrid, Spain is not the same coffee we use to buy on Monroe Street in Tallahassee.
This pretty much takes us to the game...and I'm going to let Stan the man Jones right alongside, "Lu Lu" Luke Loucks take over those updates.
I will give you a tip, my guy Luke had himself a pretty good day offensively. Five 3-pointers and 19 points...that kid we recruited as a point guard who could distribute sure is starting to develop into a shooter as well.
We are approaching Valencia now... Adios...
Entry 7: Stan Jones
After much touring and cultural appreciation, we finally got to what we love to do -- which is to compete on the hard wood. And if you could see the court we played on you would know those trees for that use had been cut down along time ago. Any of you readers in the floor finishing business my want to look into expanding internationally. As we got ready to play thru our warm-up routine, our guys gained greater and greater appreciation for our exceptional practice facility and all the wonderful places we play in the ACC. Needless to say our defensive slides got better whether we were trying to or not. Our hosts were very gracious and our guys enjoyed the traditional gift exchange and the game tipped off.
Our opponents had just begun their preparations for their coming season, so they were not in sync early as the Noles jumped out to an early 12-0 lead. Coach Hamilton's goal was to evenly distribute minutes and we started a different lineup each quarter. We played both big and small lineups and keep it quiet and we played some zone for some extended minutes. Please pick up some of our long time fans off the floor at this juncture. Along with playing four 10 minute quarters, we had to adjust to a NBA like :24 second clock. Sophomore Luke Loucks hit two three pointers to start the game which was part of a game high of 19 for Loucks. Solomon Alabi tied for scoring honors with 19 points with a game high eight rebounds. Junior guard Derwin Kitchen tied Alabi for rebound honors with eight as well. Other double figure scorers were sophomores Chris Singleton 14, Deividas Dulkys 13 and Xavier Gibson with 12. Senior Ryan Reid rounded out the double digit scoring with 10. In addition, Reid had seven rebounds as did Gibson. Other scoring involved Jordan DeMercy with seven and Pierre Jordan with three. Assists leaders included Kitchen with seven, Pierre Jordan with four and DeMercy, Dulkys with three each. Overall it was a solid performance.
We are off to Valencia for a day on the water which we will need a lot of as the facility we played in was hotter than the open air gyms we played in Trinidad 4 years ago. The student managers will probably have to double wash the uniforms to make sure they don't smell for the next game. Finally our opponents CASVI were gracious to honor us with a nice meal of burgers, calamari, cheese croquettes, papa fritas, Spanish omelets and ice cream cake before we piled on the bus. It was a neat experience for our guys to share with another culture. As you can see, I am expanding my second language with the usage of papa fritas. By next week, who knows what language an old hoops coach maybe writing back in!
Entry 6: Luke Loucks
First off, I would like to say congrats to the soccer team for being picked to finish 2nd in the ACC, even know we all know they are going to finish 1st. I talked to Casey Short and Jessica Price last night online and they wanted a shout out, so here is your shout out. You're famous! Secondly, I see that the football practices are in full swing. I'm really looking forward to the football season, being a former football player. I miss tossing the pigskin around and when I see that the boys are just hitting full pads I remember the two-a-days in the Florida heat back in high school. It baffles me that I'm talking about Tallahassee just three days after arriving in Spain.
We had a full day and once again everyone had a good time. Even if we didn't, would I tell you... "Hey guys, today was awful." No one wants to read that. Breakfast was at from 7:30 to 10:30, which means most of us made it to breakfast at around 10:21. It was good to finally get a little sleep and rejuvenate. The breakfast was muy deliciouso, minus the pineapple juice. Something tasted really weird in the pineapple juice I had and I forgot to bring gum in my back pack, so I had nasty old pineapple juice breath for most of the morning. After breakfast we took the bus about three miles south to a world famous art museum. The place was huge! For how small Europe's vehicles are, they make it up in their buildings. We wandered through the museum for about a half hour or maybe a little longer. The deal the coaches made with us was that we could stay as little or as long as we wanted, but we had to make it back to the hotel by 1:15. As we walked back to the hotel we stopped at a few shops and stands that were set up. It's unbelievable that salesmen can still persuade you to buy something you don't even want, even if they don't speak your language.
After we arrived at the hotel we took another long walk to a restaurant about a mile or two away. It was a beautiful little place tucked in the back of a building, but it was renowned for its food. Some of the players were a little sketched out over some of the food they were eating, but most of us enjoyed the meal. They had a pig on a little skewer and they cut the meat right in front of you. This was interesting and quite different but surprisingly didn't throw off my appetite. We also partook in roasted duck, some other animal I didn't know, bread, fish and tomatoes, and even were offered some frog. I didn't see anyone put on a fear factor shirt, so I don't think anyone ate the frog.
Next, we got dressed in our gear and waited for the bus to take us to practice. And then we waited some more. A little longer. Nope not yet. After a few more minutes of waiting the coaches put their heads together and decided we should take taxi's to practice because the bus was still stuck in traffic some ways off. Deividas, Xavier and I were the last to get in a taxi, but luckily Paul Walker from Fast and Furious was driving. I honestly thought my life was going to end on several different occasions in the five minute (should have took 15 minutes) drive. He bobbed, and he weaved, and he had skill. I think he thought he was in the movie Transporter, and he had to transport his cargo at the fastest speed possible. Did I remind you we were in downtown Madrid at a busy time of the day? If not, we were. Anyways, we got to the gym in one piece minutes before anyone else. This was a smart move by the taxi driver as none of us were going to pay the bill, so he ran the meter at idle until Jacob Ridenhour arrived with the money.
The gym was something mixed between the gym in the movie Hoosiers and a YMCA in South Dakota. The floor was slick with dust, there was no air, and the bleachers we fairly small. It really makes you stop and realize how much we have back home that we take for granted. Practice went really well. We didn't have a long practice, mostly just working on shooting, running our plays, and a few drills to get us in a sweat and out of vacation mode. It was successful.
Later on in the night we walked to dinner. We walk a lot around Madrid, I think we should invest in team scooters, but maybe I'm just being lazy. The coaches/ tour guide picked an authentic Spanish restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. The catch: they had live tap dancers/singers/entertainers. I'll paint a picture for you. It was something like a halftime step-dance team, but minus the rap music, add guitars and singing, delicious food, and lots of fast hand clapping. I'm bad at painting pictures; maybe I'll just email a photo to Chuck. These dancers were really talented and kept our attention throughout most of the three hours we were there. It was one of the coolest dinners I've been to, and the food wasn't bad either. After the show we got up on stage and took a few photos with some of the female dancers. By the end of our dinner it was already pretty late at night so Coach Hamilton promptly directed us to our rooms and called curfew.
I'm pretty sure everyone is pumped for our first of four games on Friday night, and if they aren't something is wrong with them
. I will be interested to see how we match up with the Madrid team. We came here to get better as a team and improve our chances of winning a national championship, so every time we step on the court we're looking to improve. The game is sometime in the evening. After the game we head to our next city, which is either Valencia or Barcelona. I'm out like a light, talk to you guys tomorrow.
Entry 5: Stan Jones
When you live in a beautiful hometown life like Tallahassee, you sometimes forget the hectic pace of a metropolitan downtown. Walking back from the Museum de Prado, it was amazing to see the volume of foot traffic throughout the city. Trust me there is no leisure stroll. The street entertainers have definitely attracted the attention of our guys. It truly is unique in the way these acts make their living.
Dining as well, is an adventure for our guys. Meals in Europe are quite lengthy in service and in its stages. Along with a different taste and style big athletes prefer a buffet. The saving grace is when we return to our hotel, they get in some extra conditioning, hustling to the McDonald's, Burger King and KFC which are just across the street.
After a brisk practice which we reviewed the things we have targeted to work on this summer, we took in a dinner and Flamenco show.
First, about on the basketball court, we have been encouraged as a staff with the retention level of this group. It's usually a sign of potential development when you can move beyond constantly reminding players where they should be going.
Second, the Flamenco show was something none of our guys had ever seen. They got into the well choreographed dance steps, music and energy of the performance. The conditioning and fitness of the performers was incredible. They truly passed on their passion and energy for their craft into the audience. Our guys got to take a group photo with the dancers and musicians who shared great appreciation to our team. I believe this event will be remembered by the Seminoles travel party for a long time.
I am looking forward to tonight's night's game to see how roles will begin to develop without Toney Douglas, Brian Hoff and Uche Echefu no longer in the lineup.
I am also looking forward to sharing thoughts with our fans tomorrow night on our way to Valencia.
Entry 4: Luke Loucks
We landed in Madrid at around 3:15 AM Tallahassee time, but the weather outside was not reflecting our mental and physical state. The sun was vibrant and glowing as we struggled through the airport to find our way to the baggage claim. Everyone was excited to be in Spain, but no one slept much more than a few hours on the plane and was pretty worn out from the international travel. Personally, I got around 37 minutes of sleep. I was only trying to go to sleep but my nerves wouldn't let me and DeMercy decided he wanted to lose in cards. I took him up on the offer and gave him a father like spanking in nearly every game we played. He may disagree, but he knows who the champ is. All the winning got me a little worn out and I had a good night's rest for the last stretch of the flight. Mom, don't be mad at me. I will catch up on my sleep later... hopefully.
After we got our luggage most of us exchanged some of our US money for Euros. If you have never experienced this, it is humbling. Giving someone $100 and only getting 60E back is not exactly what I like to call a good deal, but I guess if I'm in their country I have to follow their rules. We met up with our tour guide and a few other folks who are associated with our trip and headed to our bus.
As I'm reading this, I noticed that Coach Jones was one step ahead of the curve and blogged about both yesterday and today. I don't really care; I'm already this far so I'm not going to restart this whole blog just because you already know that I'm going to write.
The hotel wasn't ready yet so we headed to the arena where Real Madrid plays their professional soccer games. We didn't get to go inside the massive stadium, but it was a neat experience to take some pictures outside and go in a few of the stores set up around the stadium. After we got bored there, we headed to downtown Madrid to find a place to eat before we checked in our hotel. Madrid somewhat reminds me of New York, in the sense that there are tons of taxis, pedestrians, scooters, and traffic. The downtown area, right where our hotel is located, is almost like a mini version of Times Square. We walked up and down the street, taking pictures with entertainers on the sidewalk and just enjoying the atmosphere of an incredible city. We finally got to sit down and eat some food at an outdoor restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. The food was interesting, but tasty for the most part. It's going to take a few days to acclimate my taste buds to the European style, but I'm giving it a shot.
After lunch we got a little time to settle in to our hotel and take a quick nap. This was pleasant and refreshing, but would have been much more enjoyable if we were able to sleep for about 7 more hours. A tour of the city took place once everyone made it back down stairs. I can't tell you much about the sightseeing from the bus because I was asleep for a good majority of the ride, but I can tell you that the places we stopped at were amazing. We saw an old train station, a bull fighting arena, some crazy royal palace that was about the size of Tallahassee, a cathedral, as well as some other beautiful and culturally enriching places. The architecture is so much different than America, as every building is hundreds of years old and really makes you stop and stare. We took lots of pictures throughout this tour and it was a good effort by the team to maintain a good attitude while going on such little sleep.
After a little bit of shopping and wandering throughout the busy streets of downtown Madrid, we headed for a nice steak dinner at a local steak house. It was a delicious meal and really hit the spot. The odd thing was, we ate at around 8:30 and nearly no one was in the restaurant. Apparently the Spaniards like to eat dinner at the latest hours of the night into the wee hours of the morning. After dinner they let us go free and have some fun in the city.
Tomorrow we are going to visit a Museum in the morning, but we don't really know much about the schedule after that. I know we practice sometime tomorrow, which everyone is pretty excited about. We are kind of like puppets that are stringed along by the coaches and don't really know much about what's going on until five minutes before it happens. This is good though, it kind of makes life interesting not knowing what is coming next. And until the coaches make absolutely horrible decisions with our schedule, which they never do and always have things that are fun and entertaining lined up, I will trust them with pulling my strings in the direction I need to go. Ok, time for a much needed good night's sleep so I can be energized and ready for all the activities tomorrow. Good night Mom, Dad, Emma, Jacob, Nathan and Seminole nation!
From Madrid, Luke
P.S. I almost found another hat today... but it looked weird on my head so I didn't buy it. Just thought you would like to know that.
Entry 3: Jacob Ridenhour
As the sun rises over the Atlantic and I look out the window to enjoy the view I can't sleep...nothing new here though. I can't help but reflect on our first day. After weeks and approaching months we are off on our trip.
We got away from Tallahassee with everything running smoothly. Everyone one was excited and the guys were even early for this trip. On the bus ride to Atlanta, we threw in a video that Michael Fly, our video coordinator put together, chronicling the cities we are visiting including Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. Fly finished up the video with F.C. Barcelona's highlight film (Barcelona's professional soccer team whom is arguably the best in Europe). The guys were stoked to find out we are going to the F.C. Barcelona Soccer match next week. We are all sports junkies and whether it is college basketball or ping pong, we love the competition and excitement.
Four and half hours on the Astro Bus was as good as can be expected with a long bus ride...but we did have our customary stop in Cordele, Georgia, to stretch our legs and grab a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Coach Hamilton passed on the extra calories and picked up his drink of choice, grape juice. Last time we stopped in Cordele on the way to ACC Tournament, we ran into FSU Associate A.D. Brian Battle...no luck this time; but the last time we stopped we had our run to the ACC Championship Game so maybe the "mojo" will carry over the Atlantic to Spain.
Our driver Larry Harris dropped us right on the target at the Delta check-in and we rolled right into checking everyone in and getting their boarding pass...except our travel agency changed one of our tickets today (not sure why) to tomorrow and caused all sorts of drama for one of our passengers. As a result, head student manager Nathan Engelhardt was looking like the "wall flower" at the high school dance with no ticket and no luck with our Delta agent pulling up his record locator (to use airline speak). Everyone else left and headed for the terminal.
After 1:40 of deliberations with the Travel Agency and Delta we were able to get Nate ticketed properly as the computer system was automatically closing check-in...with the time consumption on the ticketing my plans to exchange U.S. Dollars for Euros at the money exchange were totally jacked up. To the positive, Nate was checked-in and he and I were able to head for airport security. Of course our gate would have to be located at the E Terminal, kind of like having to travel on foot from the Civic Center to Doak Campbell and get in your seat for kickoff in 25 minutes or less...needless to say Nate and I looked like O.J. Simpson in the old Hertz television commercial sprinting through the airport.
Obviously we made the flight or I would not be peering out my window. We are on our decent into Madrid and you can see the excitement in the guys faces. But little do they know we are going to keep them awake all day so they will acclimate to the time change.
- Jacob Ridenhour
Entry 2: Stan Jones
I always thought cross country red eye flights during the recruiting periods were stressful on the body but our trans-Atlantic flight from Atlanta to Madrid took that to a new level. The flight itself was uneventful and smooth. But leaving the USA at 6:55 pm and landing in Madrid at 9:15 am when your body was set for 3:15 am gets even our young players a bit out of kilter.
We have adjusted well. We had an informative tour of the capitol of Spain. Seeing the Palace that houses 2,800 rooms, the awesome atrium in Madrid's train station, the soccer stadium where powerhouse Real Madrid plays, the U.S. Embassy, and many other significant political and financial buildings with awesome architectural designs was truly special. The highlight of the day was seeing the Bull Ring and watching our guys take tons of pictures with the numerous statues and designs. The bullfights are only on Sundays at this point in their season. The Seminole hoops guys are anxious to see the action later in the trip.
Tomorrow we intend to see the Museum de Prado. In addition, we will get a short practice in for our first game and then take in a Flamenco dinner show tomorrow evening.
It's only the first day, but our guys have been treated to great cultural opportunities.
Will fill you in on the details along the way.
- Stan Jones
Entry 1: Luke Loucks
I don't know the proper way to start a blog, so I'm just going to start writing and hope that Pete Kunze, my ENC 101 professor, isn't reading this and snarling due to the fact that I forgot an appropriate way to address whoever is going to read this. When Chuck Walsh, our men's basketball's Sports Information guy, contacted me to write a blog about our team's trip to Spain I was reluctant at first, but quickly pounced on the opportunity to save my money on a calling card and inform my family on what is going on in Spain via Seminoles.com. In hindsight it would probably have been much easier to just buy a twenty dollar calling card and spend 7 minutes on the phone. A wise friend once told me that hindsight is usually 20/20, and I'm beginning to believe this as I realize that I will still buy a calling card, still call my family, and I will still write this blog. So, over the next 8-11 days give or take the 1-4 days that I "forget" to send Chuck my blog you will have to put up with my elementary attempt at humoring you and keeping you updated on exactly what your Seminole Men's basketball team is doing in Spain on a day to day basis. I apologize ahead of time if this isn't what you're looking for, but I never kept a journal as a teenager and I don't know exactly what or how to write other than your usual narrative that is graded on a 100 point system. If you want to grade my writing, please do so in red ink and mail it to Chuck.
This morning I woke up and ate some delicious chocolate chip waffles, sausage, and a cup of milk, which probably wasn't helpful to the ten pounds I lost but I'm sure I'll run it off over the next few days. We had to meet at the basketball training center at 10:30 When we got to the training center we were offered a delectable and generous Jimmy Johns meal-in-a-box. If there is one thing I learned my freshman year, it's that when we leave for road trips we will either have a chicken and rice meal from California Chicken Grill or a meal-in-a-box from Jimmy Johns. These two options are standard at any time of the morning, day, or night. At around 11:25 we departed for Atlanta on the bus. We stopped after a few hours at a Dairy Queen/ gas station/ pizza hop to stretch, refresh, and waste some money. I did eye a nice top hat that was similar to Bobby Bowden's for a mere $12.99. I almost bought it on impulse but quickly came to my senses and realized there would probably be a sombrero I would rather purchase in Spain. Twenty or so minutes later, after the last Oreo blizzard is purchased by Coach Williams, we hit the road again. We finally rolled into Atlanta International Airport at about 4:15.
Our group of around 20 includes: eight players not counting Solomon who is going to meet us over in Spain (fingers crossed) and not counting any of the incoming freshman, four coaches, our strength coach Mike Bradley, our video coordinator Michael Fly, our GA Stephen Cowherd, our head manager Nate Englehert, our Trainer Sam Lunt, and our Director of Operations Jacob Ridenour. Between all of us there were 439 bags to unload off of the bus and check in. Ok, it wasn't that many but it seemed like it. Luckily, Xavier and I beat the massive traffic jam and were the first to security. Not so luckily, we were "randomly" selected to be questioned upon further review. I blame myself for this. When the security lady looking over my passport quickly snapped, "WHAT IS YOUR BIRTH DATE?!" I stumbled for a second before collecting my bearings and gave her what I thought was my birth date. I think they just selected Xavier because he is 7 foot tall and wore the same FSU shirt as the person who didn't know his birth date upon fierce questioning. We were pulled aside and patted down, waved with the baton, and questioned further while everyone stopped and starred at the two abnormally tall guys with matching t-shirts. We both passed the tests with flying colors and managed to escape this fiasco with all of our clothing and a hint of embarrassment slapped on our foreheads. After everyone got through security we killed some time by eating and answering questions from bystanders.
Anytime there is a group of 8 guys ranging from 6'4 to seven feet, all wearing the same t-shirt, you know one of two things is going to happen. Either people will come up and ask questions like "Do you play a sport?" which is usually answered with a "Yes, we play golf," or some people try to get out words but stumble with what they want to say and come up with an "Ohhh myy, you are tall." Clearly neither of these remarks needs to be stated as our shirts boldly say Florida State Basketball on them and we already know we are above average height. In any circumstance, most of us like to small talk with fans and other people so we understand if that's your way of breaking the ice. I'm not good at breaking the ice either!
Our plane left at 6:55 PM on Tuesday for Madrid. We are currently flying somewhere over the mid Atlantic. We arrive at 9:30 AM on Wednesday in Madrid's time, which I believe is six hours ahead of Tallahassee time. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, no doubt about it. Hopefully Coach Ham will let us have an hour or two to nap and catch up on lost sleep. This will probably be my longest post, as we will have a full schedule once we land in Spain. Be back soon."
- Luke Loucks