Welcome to the sixth installment of the World University Games blog on UWBadgers.com. Follow along as Wisconsin video coordinator Matt Ryan takes us along on Team USA’s trip to Colorado Springs and Serbia. Matt, who is the Director of Basketball Operations for Team USA, will bring the inside perspective as only the son of Team USA head coach Bo Ryan can. Check back regularly for more updates from the World University Games.
Blog #6: Monday, June 29, 2009
Dan Metic is on our support staff here in Serbia. He was born in Serbia and his mother still lives about 10 miles away from our village. Interestingly, he is best friends and currently lives with Joe Alexander of the Milwaukee Bucks in downtown Milwaukee. This “village” is massive, with 9,000 occupants staying here over the next two weeks and over 11,000 volunteers giving their time and support to the World University Games. The cleaning crews here are fantastic and the people have been great to us.
We have police escorts everywhere we go, which saves us a lot of time because traffic here gets rather hectic. The drivers in Belgrade are twice as bad as the ones in Los Angeles (I lived in L.A. for two years) so every bus ride we take is just as interesting as the last. We have been in a few close calls already where the bus driver had to slam on his brakes because I don’t think these people are used to buses being escorted by the police. We travel on the bus with an 18-year old woman, named Evana, and two Serbian police officers, who I would not recommend anyone messing with.
When we arrive at the gym, we are escorted in and Evana helps us with anything we need. (Her father is a scout for the Memphis Grizzlies and she has lived in Serbia her whole life. She is doing a phenomenal job for us) Dan is great to have as well because he knows some people here and speaks Serbian. I do not.
When we first arrived, he called a guy his family knows who owns a chain of what we would compare to Walgreens in the States. He immediately brought us towels for the players, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, anything we needed. We’ll probably make another call to him soon. Very friendly guy and I was told he is taking Dan and I to a very nice restaurant after we play the Russians tonight.
On Saturday, a man whose name I cannot remember because his name tag looked like a bunch of random letters strategically placed together to not make sense, took Coach Frank Haith, Dan, Coach Ryan and myself to a gym about 20 miles outside the village for a clinic Coach Ryan was putting on. A;ldkfjdskl (whatever, you get the picture) is from Serbia and is headed to Santa Monica (where I used to live) to train some NBA players including Sasha Vujacic. He has played professionally and also has coached professionally, but is not the best driver.
We arrived at the gym where Coach Ryan did a press conference for about 20 minutes and then we put on the clinic for many Serbian coaches and basketball junkies. There was a very good turnout and I thought the clinic went well considering Coach Ryan was mic’d and so was the translator. It gave me a massive headache. We went over the basics of the Swing Offense for an hour and then spent about a half hour on transition defense. Nothing against Dan and Coach Haith, but it was a good thing they had a Serbian basketball team there to help demonstrate because the three of us are not in the best basketball shape.
After an hour and a half of us and the Serbian players demonstrating Coach Ryan’s teaching points, we headed back to the village. Coach Ryan was offered to attend a dinner with the famous Serbian coach Vuda, who coached the Serbian national team in the past. I was told he made 24 million dollars last year coaching and his home is beyond mansion-like. Coach Ryan took the assistants with him and they had a blast. Many famous coaches in Serbia and other countries attended, as well, and there was a live band that performed. The lead female singer sang Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, and even did an Elvis song. Our staff was highly impressed by the entire ordeal. A;klajdkfjeivfand told us this was a very big deal and an honor to be invited, but that it was for older people so unfortunately I was not invited because I am only 29 and look like puberty is not going to hit anytime soon. The assistants bragged about the party at 3:00 a.m. when they arrived back at the village so I simply called them old and that I was glad I wasn’t invited. Old people, left to right head shake with a slight roll of the eyes. I’m over it, I got to sit sixth row at game 2 of the NBA Finals in L.A. with Steve Lavin, so eat that Robby and Frankie boy.
On to basketball…
As you’ve probably read, we beat the Canadian team, 85-81, in our first friendly match of the exhibition round robin we’re using as a warm-up. We came back to win by four points after being 10 down to start the 4th quarter. Canada started the game 6-for-6 from 3-point range (13-for-26 overall) and we struggled to find our groove on both ends. When it came time though, many players stepped up their play to push our record to 1-0. Evan Turner (OSU) struggled early until a clutch 4th quarter sequence that brought us back when we needed it most. Deshan Butler of West Virginia (20 points) was our best overall player throughout and our point guards did a great job of distributing the ball late in the game. I noticed Trevor Booker of Clemson has a mean streak in him and may be a go-to guy for us when we need a basket; a highly competitive person to say the least and I mean that in a good way.
Sunday night’s game (exhibition again) vs. Serbia is one I won’t soon forget. We played aggressive and touched the post regularly in the first half to lead by three at the break. The Serbs knew they didn’t play to their potential in the first two quarters and came out as the aggressor in the 3rd. Serbia continuously moved, cut and hit the post. It was clear if we backed down at all it was going to get ugly.
Now it is clear to me why they are the favorite to win this thing. They are big, quick and long and have unbelievable chemistry with one another. These guys could win this thing anywhere but when you add the fact that apparently they’re allowed to grab, chuck, hold, move on screens, jump on your back… well, you get the point. But as Coach Ryan told the players just now in film, these are only excuses and we need to get better because anything is possible. We need to focus on us right now and learn to improve as a team because we can win this gold medal, but it’s going to take dedication and pure focus from this moment forward.
We definitely changed our style of play in the second half, allowing them to frustrate us, which put us in a big hole after the 3rd quarter. The Serbs kept playing physically up until the buzzer sounded and it was a wake-up call for our guys. Final score: 98-82. Now the question becomes: what are we going to do to change? How can we grow as a team in such a short period of time when the Serbs and some other teams have been together for years? I don’t have the answers, but hopefully our coaches and players can figure it out. I know if this doesn’t happen it won’t be due to a lack of effort.
Monday night we face the Russians in our final friendly match. Russia took Serbia into overtime the other night and lost by two at the buzzer on a tip in. The Russians also get their best player back who arrived in Serbia last night. Both teams play a similar style of basketball; a lot of passing, movement, cutting, and touching the post. These are very skilled players and the level of competition is as good as it gets at the college level. Hopefully our guys can turn things around tonight. Go wuggies.
Random thoughts and events:
Real World Serbia had some drama last night. Dan and I went to pick up some burgers, which were the size of small pizzas, no joke. It was giant pita bread with half a cow inside. Every time we come back to the village, we have our items scanned on a conveyer belt and go through a metal detector. We brought back a few adult beverages to enjoy some of Serbia’s finest pivo (beer) and a newbie security officer just got his first walkie-talkie and just wanted to try it out. He called in to head security and told Dan we couldn’t bring in any alcohol. Dan went off in Serbian and before I knew it there were 20 officers surrounding us.
Dan then informed me that we had to have permission by our team leader so 4 officers took me to the room to get a signed permission slip by our leader Ellis Dawson. The team was sitting outside our complex and they thought I had 5 pizzas and was in some sort of trouble with the law. They for some reason didn’t look shocked. I came up to the room with the police, Ellis signed his own hand-written note saying it was o.k. for adults to have a couple of beers with their gigantic burger patties and we now refer to him as dad. Pivo never tasted better.
Random thought: this blog is too long and I’m stopping here. Good day to you all, I’ll keep you updated often considering I have tons of free time if you didn’t notice.
As Run DMC said in the last episode of “Run’s House” I saw, “I’m not cool, I’m cool’s inspiration.”
Fist bump; rock with it, lean with it. Word to your muthas. I’m out.
PREVIOUS W.U.G. BLOGS
Blog #1 - Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Blog #2 - Saturday, June 20, 2009
Blog #3 - Monday, June 22, 2009
Blog #4 - Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Blog #5 - Sunday, June 28, 2009