While at the Pan American University Championships, incoming freshman guard Jordan Heath will log the University of South Florida's adventures in Salvador, Brazil. Check GoUSFBulls.com daily for updates from the international competition. Click here for more information about the event.
Day 7, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010
Team USA endured a tough loss versus Brazil today, we lost 63-69.
Brazil deserves all the credit as they played very well, especially compared to the way we looked. We struggled both offensively and defensively and they took advantage of the mistakes we made.
Of course our main goal was to come home with a gold medal, unfortunately we fell short of that one. However we did have a great learning experience. We learned a lot about our team, and what we need to work on. And there is no doubt that when we start back up again we will be working on our flaws and attempting to perfect everything we possibly can. We also learned about the Brazilian culture. There is a piece of this experience that each of us will take back with us.
It is surprising how one small aspect of our lives and our culture (basketball) can bring together other cultures and people. The tournament not only let us see the talent other areas have, but it also gave us a little insight to something other than what we are used to. We were not only challenged on the court but also in being more accepting and understanding socially.
This was a great opportunity for our team. Our team will be better from it this season but more importantly the experiences gained from the trip will have a positive impact in our lives.
As a whole, the USF Bulls are very thankful we were given this opportunity.
Day 6, Friday, Aug. 13
We had somewhat of a laid back day. Everything we did was in preparation for tomorrow.
Although we had a game today and should have been focused on that, our minds were on the upcoming championship game. Luckily that did not backfire on us. We beat Paraguay 98-37 and we didn't have too many problems.
Anthony Crater after the game said, "I don't believe that we came out ready last game, but today we came prepared and together. We didn't shoot as well but our bigs stepped up for us. Tomorrow is the championship so we all know we have to be ready because they will be. We came to represent our country and our school so that's what we'll do."
Although there is room for improvement, our hopes are that we fill the room left by tomorrow.
Coach Heath's post game thoughts were, "We took care of business tonight, we need our rest for a quick turnaround tomorrow. We have a big game against Brazil tomorrow."
Tomorrow is the reason why we are on the trip, it has been our main focus since we were knowledgeable of playing in Brazil. We want the gold and refuse to willingly accept anything less. We play the home team of Brazil once again. Our goal is not to make the same mistakes as last time and end with a win. If we can do that the trip will be a success.
Day 5, Thursday, Aug. 12
We were finally given a day off to explore. No one played basketball today, all of the teams took a journey into Salvador.
We started off on a tour to some historic sites, where we all took pictures together and encountered relentless hagglers and bargainers. Although there was much competition on the court, off the court the teams united in harmony and set all competitive natures aside to have a good time together. Special memories were created.
Before our tour our team did not have any idea what Brazil was really like. We got to go into shopping centers, along the bay, and even deep into the heart of old Salvador, an area where the Bahian culture thrives. After a small shopping excursion for souvenirs, we departed back at our hotel, but the journey for the Americans wasn't even close to over.
In the state of Brazil basketball is not widely popular, especially among the lower class citizens. But they are fighting to change that. Today there was a small camp/opening of a new basketball court in what Americans would see as an under privileged neighborhood. And what we fail to understand is they don't take pride in monetary values or "things" like we do, there were even children out there having a great time that did not own a pair of shoes (Anthony Crater showed a kind heart by giving his away he deserves the praise).
But regardless, as a team the Bulls went and played basketball with the children. And surprisingly they taught us just as much as we taught them. We showed them a few basketball pointers while they showed us a new grateful view on our lives, and life itself. They were great kids, there was a communication barrier with most, but that did not stop us from bonding with each other.
We ended the day at an extravagant mall, surprisingly the mall is not much different than America, other than some different stores. There we bonded as a team and finally were able to get out and take our minds off of basketball.
It was a great day, but now it is time to switch our minds back into our focus mode and continue along our mission.
Day 4, Wednesday, Aug. 11
Today was a rainy day in all most all aspects. But they do say that the sun is still always on the other side. Somehow Team USA found the sun even after it had set.
It rained all day, and we had the big game versus Brazil on our mind all day. We knew they would be one of our toughest opponents and we knew that all of the "rockstar love" would quickly diminish. But we kept confidence and hope until our mission was complete.
The court was a battle field and the war had started much before the game in everyone's head. Brazil had the favor, and that is a mindset that will uneven the playing field immediately if you let it. Brazil came out with all the momentum and kept it for a long time. By halftime the Bulls had cut the deficit to three points.
Fortunately, if you have will and determination you can change a basketball game. Even when we took the lead, the game was very close. But we did keep the lead all the way to the end. The game ended with a Brazilian player hitting a two point shot which was put on the score board as a three and the game would have gone into overtime, if they had not corrected the scorer's table. Fortunately the Bulls came out with a victory.
Shawn Noriega had the most points with 14 and Augustus Gilchrist next with 12.
"We were very fortunate to win," said Coach Stan Heath after the win. "Give Brazil a lot of credit. They executed and controlled tempo very well. We were up 10 late and let it slip away. And in the last play they hit a shot with their foot on the line that would have tied the game. We don't want to look past our semi-final opponent in Paraguay, but if we win it will set up a terrific final rematch with Brazil."
The Bulls live to fight another day with our heads up, and we keep playing with pride in our country.
Day Three, Tuesday, Aug. 10
Today was a pretty smooth day compared to all of our previous days in Brazil. We started the day with a walk-through on top of the hotel over-looking the gorgeous shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean and the vibrant city of Salvador.
Click here for photos from my phone
The food took a turn for the better today. Lunch at the hotel was a little less foreign, and President Genshaft, her husband and our athletic director, Mr. Woolard, treated us to an amazing dinner at one of the finest restaurants in the area. It just reminds us we couldn't be more thankful for all of the opportunities those above us and behind the scenes have given us.
We played against the arrogant team from Chile today. Before the game started some comments were made to the few USF family members we had here by the team members of Chile. We came out with a vengeance and responded with a 103-31 victory.
"The intensity at the beginning of the game set the tone for our team," Coach Heath comments looking back on the game. "Jarrid [Famous], Gus [Gilchrist] and Shaun [Noriega] were on fire offensively and Hugh's [Robertson] defense and rebounding was impressive with 11 boards. The second key was our bench play. Mike [Burwell], LaVonte [Dority], and Toarlyn [Fitzpatrick] kept the intense play going."
Today Burwell and Fitzpatrick each had their debut game.
"There was a lot of excitement finally being back on the court," said Burwell. "It was a great feeling to be out there on the court and being part of our team again."
"I was excited and anxious at the same time to get out there," said Fitzpatrick.
Statistics for today included five guys in double figure scoring Famous-24, Burwell-15, Noriega-14, Dority-12, and Gilchrist with 10, all in the first half.
Tomorrow we face the tough home team of Brazil. The crowd may not be as friendly, but the Bulls have proved before that we are able to overcome slanted adversities.
Day Two, Monday, Aug. 9
Our first night was just as rough as our first meal. But we made it through regardless if being uncomfortable because of the drastic changes. None the less it only makes us appreciate what we have at home so much more.
After we ate breakfast, we went to the gym for a shoot around. The gym we play at is a school and we came right in the midst of their day and they were extremely welcoming. As soon as we got off the bus they mobbed us with requests of pictures, autographs, and even just to attempt to speak to us (which in most cases was a failure). Nothing but excitement filled the air, not only before our shoot-around but before our game.
Today we played Columbia, it was a different style of basketball. Colombia was rough, bordering dirty, (but that is a style that we must get used to and be prepared for). The game is also called differently. We did not get foul calls that we are used to, due to their different style of play. But we made the best of it and played hard. The final score was 90-55, and Team USA was able to adjust to the adversities and WIN.
"It was our first game and it showed out there. We adjusted and improved as the game went on. We are happy to get the win, now we must prepare for a tougher opponent," Coach Heath commented after the game.
Shawn Noriega, who ended with a break-out 20 points said, "this game showed a lot about our team, we saw our strengths and weaknesses and what we need to improve on. But we do have a lot of potential for the upcoming season. Tonight we quickly found new but great chemistry."
Other leaders on the court tonight were Augustus Gilchrist with 16 points and 9 rebounds, Jarrid Famous had 16 points, Hugh Robertson finished with 18 points. Tomorrow we play Chile.
Day One, Sunday, Aug. 8
After finally awakening and being able to move from a nine-hour flight to the city of Salvador, we look out and it seems as if we landed in a jungle. But relieving enough, five minutes into the bus drive we see the beautiful country of Brazil. Surprisingly without even talking to a native, we were able to figure out a very important part of the Brazilian culture. Every other block or so there was a soccer field, and there were people on every single field playing at seven in the morning.
While driving through the city we see a not too different, but still very exotic way of life. People are very relaxed, everyone is friendly and willing to help. Just as we are curious to their diverse way of life, they are curious about us as well.
Click here for some photos taken with my phone.
Following our arrival to our hotel, we had a couple of hours to recuperate from the extremely long travel hours and all the excitement that didn't hit us until we made it here. The first thing most of us encountered was the foreign food. It wasn't too unusual but we did have trouble finding an appetite our first couple of meals. We share the hotel with all of the other teams in the tournament, and interestingly enough they are just as confused as us, but equally as friendly.
Once we got settled, we left for practice. Although we didn't expect anything different than what we saw, the gym is interesting to say the least. It doesn't seat more than the average high school in the States, there is no air conditioning and the lines on the court are not the same as the what we are used to.
But we have no excuses. We know what we are in Salvador for and we are focused on accomplishing our goals for our school and our country.