Welcome to the seventh 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 #7: Thursday, July 2, 2009
We played the Russians in our last friendly two nights ago. I’m so happy the game didn’t go into overtime because if I heard the “Roocia, Roocia, o’lay o’lay o’lay chant one more time by the Russian fans I was going to lose it. Our only fans were our lady woogies who have been supporting us since they arrived. Even Suzy Merchant (Michigan State’s women’s hoops coach) told me she couldn’t listen to the chant nor the obnoxious Russian blow horn (which sounded just like the scoreboard buzzer) any longer. So credit the Russian fans for making their presence known.
The officiating was again pretty tough to figure out, if not worse than the Serbia game. But this time our guys fought through the adversity. In a low scoring affair, the woogies played with discipline for 40 minutes and battled with a purpose to win 67 to 63. I think we are starting to figure out international basketball and I strongly believe this “friendly” tournament helped our team figure some things out. Yesterday, we went over film again and the players realized how we can also be successful using the European style of play while incorporating our own brand of basketball.
Our defense on ball screens improved, and offensively we made some big strides. We were much better setting ball screens with the screener immediately running hard to the rim. We learned quickly to utilize a weak side player to be in a better position replacing the screener on the perimeter for another option and to create spacing all while exhibiting a much quicker and more definitive pace than the two games prior. I think our American style of play may come across to us as decisive and appear more structured. Europeans pass and cut all in the same motion and never stop moving but like a stand-up comedian, it may seem off the cuff, but there is a distinct method and preciseness behind every action. We have a better understanding of what is crucial to achieve gold and we’re gaining knowledge will hopefully pay dividends throughout the tournament.
We had our first ceremony in the village in order to, more or less, initiate and recognize every country. We walked only a short distance and we all went into our countries roped off territory. We were represented with about 5 or 6 other countries due to lack of space and probably some time constraints. There were beautiful Serbian women ushering people to their locations and Serbian military standing on the sides of the red carpet we walked down.
Once we were all standing in our own countries section, there were a few speeches by the committee welcoming us to the World University Games. Each country’s representative, ours being Gary Cunningham (chief of mission for the U.S. and former assistant coach at UCLA under the great John Wooden) received a bag of gifts and acknowledged the crowd. Every country’s flag was then raised and people erupted in cheer for their nation’s flag. The ceremony soon ended in order for pictures to be taken and to get the next group of countries into the red carpet area.
Last night’s ceremony, which I was not able to attend due to laundry and video commitments, was not so short and to the point. Groups began departing around 4:15 p.m. to the newly built Belgrade Arena (built last year for the immensely popular Serbian basketball teams) for the big initiation ceremony. By the time the program began, it was 8 p.m. and it ended around 10:15 p.m. which was apparently the best part. I guess it was worth the 6 hour wait for some people. Oh, and many people booed when our country was announced. According to some explanations, George Bush might have had something to do with the crowd reaction. Note to other countries, Obama is now our president.
Random Thoughts and Events:
1.) I was talking to a man from Colorado Springs, who approached Dan and I, outside the village on our way back from doing laundry yesterday. I told him about the early officiating we received and I may have used some choice words to describe the situation. After we walked away, Dan said, “did you notice on his I.D. badge that he was a priest?” No, no Dan I apparently did not but thanks for stepping in and warning me. Wow. Sorry Priest Michael from Colorado Springs. I know he assumes God will forgive me, but I’m not so convinced at this point.
2.) Dan’s family friend took our staff out to eat at a very nice Serbian restaurant. I had pasta with bacon and cheese mixed in, a fantastic meal, while the assistants had t-bone steaks. Some others tried the chicken and fish in a variety of forms. We also had a great salad and dessert was the best part. Jim Tooley (the Executive Director of USA basketball) met us there and sat next to me. Very nice man and we all had great conversations with Stefano (Dan’s friend who hosted us) about Serbian culture and the history of the country.
3.) I got bored to the point that I decided to spit a free style rap in order to mix things up a bit so my bloggage doesn’t go stale. Mind you, this only took a few minutes to create and then our Sports Information Director Caroline had a great idea to make it a sound bite on the blog. I laid down the rhymes and then added another sound bite with my own beat. Click here for greatness…