SYDNEY, 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 Hornsby Spiders (Saturday, Aug. 20) during the exhibition tour of the Land Down Under.
Thursday, Aug. 18 — "The Michael Jordan of Australia"
When you ask a native Australian who the best basketball player their country has ever produced, the answer is unanimous … Andrew Gaze.
I took an informal poll of most of our travel party during our flight from Cairns to Sydney today. Both Australian players — sophomores Jeromie Hill and Iggy Nujic — agreed there was no doubt as to who the best was. Team Operations Coordinator and Melbourne product Shenton Wai told me if anyone didn't answer with Andrew Gaze then they just don't know who he is. Assistant coach Jeff Renegar dubbed Gaze "the Michael Jordan of Australia."
Most of the other players did answer with Andrew, but not Gaze … Andrew Bogut, the 2005 NBA Draft's overall No. 1 selection by the Milwaukee Bucks. Bogut, who played collegiately at the University of Utah, has averaged 12.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in six seasons with the Bucks. Much is still to be determined on how Bogut will finish his career.
Gaze, meanwhile, is Australia's National Basketball League's (NBL) all-time leading scorer with 18,908 points in 612 games over a 22-year career (30.9 ppg). He led the Melbourne Tigers to two championships and helped guide Seton Hall to the 1989 NCAA Championship Game against Michigan in his only college season. Gaze also played (sparingly due to injury) for the San Antonio Spurs during their 1998-99 NBA Title run.
Today's trivia question … what popular TV show did Gaze appear on? (answer at the end of this blog)
Maybe Bogut will surpass Gaze as the best all-time Australian player, but he's not there yet when you look at the stats or ask the Aussies.
We are in Sydney for the final three days of our trip Down Under. The nation's largest city with a population of more than 4.5 million people, Sydney is a much different locale than our first two stops. This was apparent on our drive from Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport into the city center. This is a busy place.
We arrived in the capital of New South Wales slightly after 1 p.m. local time and hungry. Our flight from Cairns was not on Qantas, but another airline that is an affiliate. The seats were all leather, which was very nice, but no free refreshments or snacks were offered. If you wanted water, you had to fork over $3 for a bottle, which makes you wonder how much a small meal would cost. Needless to say, the guys were starving by the time the bus driver dropped us off at a food court and mall in Darling Harbour.
Our hotel for the next three nights, the Marriott Sydney Harbour, is located in the downtown area and a short distance from the two iconic sights of this city. While the driver was giving us an audio tour of the area, we turned a corner and found ourselves underneath the Harbour Bridge with the Opera House directly in front of us. Several of the players asked if we could stop, but there really was no place to pull over on the busy streets. No worries, as the Aussies say, because we checked into our hotel by 3:30 p.m. and everyone had the evening on their own to make the short walk down to the harbor to see the two architectural wonders.
We've been in the Land Down Under for over a week now, and the group is used to seeing vehicles drive on the left side of the road by now. Staying to the left also applies to walking and, strange as it seems, it is taking more time to get the hang of it. Passing people going the opposite direction on sidewalks sometimes makes for an unintended game of chicken. It shouldn't be that difficult to figure out, but our natural inclination is to walk on the right, which doesn't work down here.
Furthermore, the moving footways in Australian airports are opposite of those in the United States, meaning you need to head to your left to find the right movable path or you could end up causing an unfortunate scene. If you do make it on the correct one and wish to stand instead of walk, you must stay to the left. Again, the opposite of what we're used to.
Staying on the subject of walking, pedestrians have the right of way crossing many busy streets here. The street sign is classic. It is of a pair of pants legs and shoes (the actual legs are either missing or the socks are the same yellow color as the sign). This brings me to my other favorite Australian street sign — "Give Way" which is their version of our yield sign. I have included pictures of both in today's photo gallery.
There are two games left on our schedule.
On Friday, we make a long trek north (more than two hours) to Maitland to play the Mustangs of the Waratah League, which is part of the Australian Basketball League, at 7 p.m. (4 a.m. CT). On Saturday, UTSA will face the Hornsby Spiders, also of the Waratah League, at 2 p.m. (11 p.m. CT/Friday).
Now, to the answer to today's trivia question. Gaze appeared on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2006. I don't watch the show but discovered this anecdote while researching his career numbers. If you are a fan of the show, you probably already know he did not win.