GOLD COAST, Australia — UTSA Assistant Athletics
Director and men's basketball SID Kyle Stephens will be writing a
journal during the Roadrunners' nine-day trip to Australia. Check back
with goUTSA.com throughout the trip for updates to his chronicles and photo galleries.
Just a reminder that UTSA will play five games against the Gold Coast
Blaze (Saturday. Aug. 13), Brisbane Spartans (Sunday, Aug. 14), Cairns
Taipans (Wednesday, Aug. 17), Maitland Mustangs (Friday, Aug. 19) and
New South Wales Institute of Sport (Saturday, Aug. 20) during the
exhibition tour of the Land Down Under.
Saturday, Aug. 13 — "Basketball Down Under"
When UTSA received an offer earlier this year to take this exhibition tour of Australia, there was little doubt the trip would have a profound impact on the program.
For starters, the Roadrunners were allowed 10 practices in late July and early August to help prepare for the five games they would play Down Under. This extra time obviously has helped a team, which is coming off a Southland Conference Championship and first-round NCAA Tournament win, gel with two of three newcomers — junior Kannon Barrage and freshman A.J. Price — on board. This and the five scheduled games Down Under no doubt will benefit the squad when it officially opens practice on Oct. 14.
The opportunity to spend nine days on another continent will help educate everyone on a culture halfway around the world. For everything Australia has in common with the United States, there are differences that help show not everyone lives exactly the way we do.
Fuel is more expensive here, averaging around $1.65 per liter, which equates to about $6.27 per gallon. Fast food is available here, but it is not located on every corner, nor is it as cheap. We already discussed the cost of a typical breakfast value meal at McDonald's here, but food in general is more expensive.
As Cairns native Jeromie Hill explained, "Everything just costs more here. It can be an expensive place to live." Kindness is found here, but it is on another level. Australians go out of their way to tell you "G'Day" or to help you, and honesty abounds.
In fact, head coach Brooks Thompson misplaced an expensive set of sunglasses in our hotel Saturday. Considered good as gone back home, someone took the time to return them to the front desk (called "Reception" here).
Basketball is different, as well.
Yes, the goals are 10-feet high and the balls are round, but Australians use FIBA (The International Bsketball Federation) rules. That means wider lanes, a 3-point line drawn 6.75 meters (22-1.748 feet) from the basket, a 24-second shot clock and four 10-minute quarters. To top things off, the arenas are not as large or fancy as ones we see in the States.
That brings me to Saturday's game against the Gold Coast Blaze of the National Basketball League (NBL), Australia's top professional level. After a pregame meal at an Italian restaurant two blocks from our hotel, the team boarded the bus for a 15-minute ride over to Carrara Stadium for the 5 p.m. (2 a.m. CT) matchup.
The facility is located next to a multi-million dollar stadium that serves as the home of the Gold Coast SUNS of the Australian Football League. It's quite a sight. The basketball arena pales in comparison, but this is not the actual home court for the Blaze. That resides in the Gold Coast Convention Centre located across the street from our hotel. We are playing at an alternate site for Gold Coast, which is coached by Joey Wright. If that names sounds familiar, it's because it is the Joey Wright who made up one-third of the famous "BMW" trio for the Texas Longhorns in the early 1990s. A free pat on the back for anyone who can name the other two (I will give you the answer toward the end of this journal entry).
The Roadrunners got off to a slow start and found themselves down, 22-9, after the first quarter. A little bit of the rust of having not played since March showed, as UTSA struggled from the floor. Helped by a spark off the bench in the form of Burrage, the Birds scored the first 10 points of the second period to pull back to within three. Junior Melvin Johnson III connected from downtown at the 5:20 mark to give UTSA its first lead, 25-24. The teams traded points over the remainder of the first half and the Blaze took a 33-29 lead into the locker room.
There actually were two other games between youth teams being held simultaneously on smaller courts located behind black curtains at end each of the main court. Basketball is a popular sport in Australia and is still growing, as evidenced by the number of children participating here Saturday evening. There was even a 3-point shooting contest at halftime for what appeared to be young players no older than 12. That was on one end of the floor. On the other end, Wright was running through set plays with his squad, not a normal sight for those who follow hoops in America.
The Blaze stretched their lead back to double digits at 45-35 through the first three minutes of the third quarter. The lead grew to 19 late in the period and the scoreboard showed, 61-43, in favor of Gold Coast after 30 minutes in the books. UTSA would get no closer in a 90-68 decision.
Junior Stephen Franklin and Hill, who is playing in his home state of Queensland, led the Roadrunners with 14 points apiece, while Burrage added 13. Hill added seven rebounds, while Perth native Igor Nujic grabbed six. UTSA shot just 35 percent (25-for-72) and made only 4-of-21 (19 percent) from beyond the arc.
Brendan Teys drained 4-of-4 from long range en route to a game-high 19 points to lead the Blaze, who also received double-digit points from Zac Carter (16), Jason Cadee (16), Kenny Barnes (12) and Steven Broom (10), who also had a game-best 10 boards. Gold Coast shot 52 percent (34-for-65) and made 9-of-19 (47 percent) from behind the 3-point line.
After our game, the Gold Coast Rollers were set to host the Brisbane Capitals in a key Queensland Basketball League battle. A good crowd took in the UTSA contest and no doubt were sticking around for the nightcap. Basketball is still developing a loyal following in some parts of this country, but the excitement and enthusiasm shown by those who were in attendance shows it is moving in the right direction.
UTSA will have a short turnaround for its next game against the Brisbane Spartans at 1 p.m. Sunday (10 p.m. Saturday CT) in Carina. Be sure to check back with goUTSA.com for a recap on that contest, as well as an update on the Roadrunners' travels.
Today's trivia answer is (drum roll, please) … Lance Blanks and Travis Mays made up the other two parts of Texas' famous "BMW" trio.
I'd like to leave you with something that should make all Roadrunners proud. Late Friday after the first journal entry, I received an email from a lady in Australia who encountered three of our players at a local K-Mart (yes, they have K-Marts here). It was a very kind note about how polite they were to her, so I will take this opportunity to thank Kannon Burrage, Melvin Johnson III and A.J. Price for representing UTSA so well 8,000 miles from San Antonio. I've decided to share the email and photo she sent below.
Good Evening Kyle,
My name is Lisa Hooper and I am a resident of the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
Today I had the absolute pleasure of meeting three outstanding young men from the UTSA Roadrunners Team. Believe it or not, I was in Kmart at Pacific Fair, Broadbeach, and happened upon the three young men. I asked where they were from etc., obviously curious as they had all of their team gear on.
The reason for this email is to express to you the warmth I felt in my heart at what incredibly polite, and fine ambassadors those three young men are for your University and the USA.
Their manners were impeccable and they were so obliging.
I’ve attached a photo so you can see who they are, and, if you could kindly do so, please pass on my sincere and absolute pleasure at having been able to meet them.