Oct. 12, 2009
By Ultima Rogers and David Weisz, Sports Information Interns
In preparation of the upcoming 2009-10 basketball season, head coach Leonard Hamilton took his team on a once in a lifetime trip to Spain, sponsored by Nike. The Seminole men’s basketball team played four games, winning each game by at least 48 points and creating the chemistry needed for another successful season.
“This trip to Spain was an unforgettable experience,” said sophomore point guard Luke Loucks. “Everyone on the team grew closer over the course of the trip and I know everyone had a great time,” was how Loucks best described the team’s journey through his blog on seminoles.com.
Losing the senior leadership of key players such as Toney Douglas and Uche Echefu would hinder any program, which made the experience in Spain all the more crucial for a team comprised of mostly underclassmen.
“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,” said Loucks.
This may be exactly what the team needed in its’ quest for a second straight NCAA tournament appearance.
In the Seminoles’ first game overseas against Eurocolegio Casvi Villaviciosa de Oden, the team set the tone for the rest of their trip with a 101-53 victory in Madrid. Sophomores Luke Loucks and Solomon Alabi each scored a team high 19 points, with four others contributing double digits. After a 15 point halftime lead, FSU picked up the pace on both sides of the ball, scoring 55 second half points while defensively allowing a scant 22 points. The victory drove the team to a higher standard for the duration of their trip.
The Seminoles’ second game against C.B. Alginet, a 118-55 triumph, did not fail to disappoint the precedent set by their first game. Alabi again contributed 19 points for Florida State, showing his improved skill set, which could prove to be pertinent for the upcoming season. Deividas Dulkys led all scorers with 22 points on a perfect four-of-four performance from the 3-point line. Sophomore Chris Singleton achieved the first double-double for Florida State, scoring 17 points and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds. Hamilton’s squad continued its trend of second-half dominance, outscoring Alginet 67-31.
Florida State’s largest margin of victory of the tour came in game three against Spanish Club Claret with a 127-60 scoring parade. Dulkys led all players again with his 30 point performance in the highest scoring total of the trip. On top of his 11 points, junior Derwin Kitchen continued to show the ability to involve his teammates, recording seven assists for the third consecutive game. Loucks contributed nine points and as many assists while Freshman Pierre Jordan tallied seven points and seven boards. The game upped the average margin of victory on the trip to 59.3 points, proving that the team can win games in multiple fashions.
Florida State played its final game in Barcelona against USAT Basuet and extended their dominance in a 121-61 victory. Showing senior leadership, Ryan Reid led all scorers with 20 points, while adding eight boards in the final game of the expedition. Having scored in double figures the last two games, junior Jordan DeMercy continued his solid play with a personal tour-high of 19 points and nine rebounds. Recently named as a John R. Wooden award candidate, Alabi finished the tour by scoring in double figures in every game including his 17 point performance in the finale. Singleton and Dulkys round out the list of Seminoles to score in double figures in every game, with Dulkys being the leading scorer for the trip.
It is safe to say that the trip was a success from a game play standpoint. Hamilton watched his team score 116.8 points per game, while allowing a stifling 58.8 points per game.
“Coach was able to get a jump on some of his strategy ideas for next season,” said Director of Basketball Operations Jacob Ridenhour. “Our guys were able to get on the court and bond and become familiar with getting up and down.”
“We have been encouraged as a staff with the retention level of this group,” said Associate Head Coach Stan Jones. “It’s usually a sign of potential development when you can move beyond constantly reminding players where they should be going.”
While the team enjoyed great success on the hard court, they were also able to enjoy their time away from the court. Early in the trip, the players were able to do such things as visit the Museum de Prado and see a Flamenco show.
“They (the dancers) truly passed on their passion and energy for their craft into the audience,” said Jones.
Hamilton and company were able to try foods that no one on the team thought they would ever consume.
“We partook in roasted duck, some other animal I didn’t know, bread, fish and tomatoes, and even were offered some frog,” said Loucks. “I didn’t see anyone put on a fear factor shirt, so I don’t think anyone ate the frog. Everything did return to status quo for the Seminoles however, as they were able to get a taste of home at times, going to places like the Hard Rock Café, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Dunkin Donuts, which Jacob Ridenhour says is “not the same coffee we buy on Monroe Street.”
Loucks and his teammates traveled to the Florida State campus in Valencia campus while in Spain. The International Program was very kind to its’ American counterparts.
“The Florida State campus in Valencia has is a program that seems to be thriving and is a great part of the Florida State academic community,” said Jones.
While the visit to Seminole stomping grounds may have cured any homesickness, it also reminded the team that the new school year and basketball season is quickly approaching.
“When you live in a beautiful hometown life like Tallahassee, you sometimes forget the hectic pace of a metropolitan downtown,” said Jones. “The street entertainers have definitely attracted the attention of our guys. It truly is unique in the way these acts make their living.”
“With the basketball aside the true spirit and purpose of this trip is to show our team a cultural experience,” said Ridenhour. “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 second day, the Flamenco Show, the bull fight, the street festivals, the FSU Study Center, the Oceanographic and dolphin show, the train ride up the coast, the 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.”
The Seminoles’ goal this year is simple: return to March Madness. But this year, the team wants to play into April and bring home the Seminoles first championship in basketball. To accomplish this goal, they’ll have to practice hard, execute flawlessly and have the ball bounce their way all season long. The trip to Spain was a great way to start the season.