According to WCPoets.com, under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regulations, each Division III basketball team is allowed one international tour every three years. This year, the Whittier College team had the privilege of competing in Sydney, Australia. In late August, the Poets packed their bags and headed to the Southern Hemisphere.
The team participated in a 10-day tour, focusing mainly on basketball with some fun mixed in as well. The Whittier College team consisted only of players from the 2016-17 season, leaving a strong group of 10 to compete in four games against different Australian teams. “We learned how to play with each other,” said third-year guard Eric Davis. “It’s been a couple months since we’ve seen each other, so we had to find a way to get back into it.”
The Poets had no problems getting back into it during game one. On day two of the tour, the Whittier College Basketball team played against the Sydney Boys High School team. The final score came out to 120-68 in favor of Whittier, proving Sydney was no match.
On day three, the team played in a double-header against the Australian College of Basketball in game two and the University of Sydney in game three. “The way their basketball teams work out there is kind of like the Hunger Games,” said Davis, referring to the Australian College of Basketball. “You know how they have districts? There are not many different teams like there is in America. [We have a] whole bunch of high school teams and a whole bunch of college teams. [There], it’s like district versus district, and they all train together. From there, they put together a team to play against us.”
However, the Australian team’s tributes were not strong enough to achieve a victory over the Whittier College team. The Poets won game two with a score of 83-68, keeping the odds ever in Whittier’s favor.
But the victory was short-lived. The University of Sydney proved to be a challenge for the Poets, as they trailed a couple points behind throughout game three. The game ended with a score of 92-87 in favor of Sydney. “We lost that game by a couple points in the last seconds,” said Davis. “It was pretty tough. It was pretty challenging, but it woke us up.”
With almost four days to get their heads back in the game, the Whittier College Basketball team played Cairns Taipans Development team on day seven. The Poets were able to make a great comeback, beating the Marlins 103-92. “[We played against] the development team of the whole city, and we won that game. It was a pretty good experience,” said Davis.
The team’s time in Australia was not just business. The trip ‘down under’ was full of sightseeing and adventure for the Whittier College Men’s Basketball team. The team stayed in two main cities: Sydney and Cairns. The team got to explore each city throughout the day. In Sydney, the team went to the Opera House, had dinner there, and took a bus ride through the city.
“It was super crazy out there, you know how they drive on the [left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side]? Sydney, Australia was nice. It was kind of like San Francisco with a New York City feel with the people walking around the street 24/7,” said Davis. “We ate some pretty good food. All the restaurants out there were pretty good.”
When the team was not in Sydney, they went to Cairns, a more tropical area. “We went out to the Great Barrier Reef and went snorkeling and skydiving,” said Davis. “It was a pretty good experience. It was fun; I enjoyed that. That was definitely one of my favorite parts for sure.”
This experience was not only fun for the Whittier College Men’s Basketball team, but it was also a way to bond as a team. As many know, Coach Jensen is now the Men’s Basketball head coach. Along with Jensen, the team has gained a new assistant coach, Da’Mon Perry, as well as the supporting staff of Coach Myers and Coach Cameron.
So, with a brand-new coaching staff and same players, the Poetscame back wanting to grow enough to achieve the goal of National Championships. “I feel like we are all on the same page with what we want to do and how far we want to go,” said Davis.
With the fierce team that Whittier College continues to build, going to Division III Championships is an achievable goal. “We just got to go out there and give it our hardest every night,” said Davis. “I believe we are putting forth the work everyday since definitely since season ended last year. It did not end the way we wanted it to end, so we didn’t just set regular goals as far as winning SCIAC. We are trying to push past that and set higher goals. We are aiming for the whole Division III National Championship with the group that we have. We have new incoming players, first-years, and transfers, so our unit this year is going to be really strong.”
A strong unit is exactly what the College needs when the Poets start the 2017- 18 season on Oct. 15.