They may not have emerged as the winner on the court in the first day of the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, but they’ve won the prize for the longest road trip of the tournament — hands down.
Or is it down under?
The Prince Alfred School of Southern Australia has been on a whirlwind basketball road trip since departing their home of Kent Town on Dec. 9. The 18-member team from the all-boys private boarding school has spent Christmas on the East Coast and New Year’s Day will be here on the West Coast. Everything in between has been about lessons in basketball and life.
Every three years, the school that boasts 1,100 students from elementary through high school takes a basketball tour of America.
According to basketball coordinator Chris Jordison, the athletic staff, teachers and parents trolled the web for a tournament for the high school age teams, both a varsity and JV level, to participate.
The Princes had already committed to Buffalo, N.Y., where a former teacher now resides and a side trip to Philadelphia where their current coach Mark Davis is from. MaxPreps was a perfect fit for the finish.
What they’ve learned along their journey has been priceless.
“I don’t even know what hotel we’re at because we just dropped our bags and came here,” said sophomore Dan Fahey-Sparks after landing for the opening game at Rancho Mirage High School. The Princes fell to Temescal Canyon, 75-22. “We’ve seen so much and we’ve learned so much.
“The highlight has been staying with host families. Everything was a brand new experience. We met a ton of people.”
Jordison added that the trip is about basketball first, but it becomes much more than that.
“Basketball is the reason why, but there’s also life experiences,” he said. “Part of it is learning how this part of the world lives. We stayed with host families, we’re digging out of snow (a rarity in southern Australia), played at four different schools. They shadowed the players in schools and did some presentations on what schools are like in Australia.
“It’s basketball first, but it’s also learning about what comes first because they want to do everything.”
Jordison added that the team, which is an eight-man varsity squad made up of entirely underclassmen, is also learning the game.
“They’re looking at how things are different and that our standard is not as high,” he said. “They’re learning that the bar can be raised and how it can be done.”
Fahey-Sparks point out that he sees the biggest discrepancy in the game between Australia and America is “overall work ethic” here. He also added that he noticed another thing when playing East vs. West coast style.
“The defense is different, a lot more intense here,” he said.
Along with the games, the players also enjoyed the start of a long-lasting relationship they’ve made through their basketball excursion.
“They’re learning how to live with another family and they’ve loved it — they’re treated like rock stars,” said Jordison. “They loved having 30 or 40 girls waiting after the games, developing relationships, and with the technology, they’ll be able to develop. And just seeing all the cities, going to the (Eagles vs. Bears) football game, to Madison Square Garden (to watch Duke play UCLA), then seeing the Lakers at the Staples Center.”
But it’s not over yet.
The Princes play throughout the 120-team event which concludes Monday, but before heading home on a 16-hour flight, they’ll finish up their sports stops with an NHL game in Anaheim.
“We’ve seen a lot already,” said Fahey-Sparks. “We went to see the Lakers. We saw Kobe, but didn’t see him play. We went to the Eagles’ game. A lot of the guys didn’t know anything about it, but it was a highlight.”