For the second straight year, a group from Jordan Brand will travel to Europe -- this time to Vilnius, Lithuania -- for a two-day training camp with 40 of the top prospects in the world from March 4-9. Ten players will be selected as the Most Valuable Players from the camp and they will travel to the United States in April, along with six players from other regions of the world to compete in the second annual International Game as part of the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, April 18th at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The following is a blog and daily photo gallery from Kevin Foley, who will be along for the trip.
Vilnius, Lithuania (March 6): My day started with a very nice breakfast in the hotel with Susan Mulders who oversees basketball sports marketing for Nike Europe. Not only is she one of the most knowledgeable people in the world of basketball, but she is probably the MVP of this trip for all of her hard work behind the scenes. It is not an easy task to work with the 20+ different countries that will be represented here this weekend. She is also a former European pro who had a successful career in Spain, Germany and France. She speaks five different languages and does a tremendous job maintaining relationships with so many people. Just imagine if every state in the U.S. spoke a different language, had unique customs and were all extremely competitive against each other. And your job was to manage all of them.
Since we will finally be getting into basketball tomorrow, I thought it would also be a good idea to make this blog a little more educational. Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania with a population of 555,000 and was known to be discovered in 1323. In June 1940, Lithuania was annexed (made a territory) by the Soviet Union. The country was then occupied by Germany during World War II and sadly, 190,000 or 91% of the pre-war Lithuanian Jewish population was killed, one of the highest total mortality rates of the Holocaust. Almost fifty years later, on March 11, 1990, the country announced it's independence from the Soviet Union and was officially recognized as a separate country in August 1991. This year, Vilnius was selected as a 2009 European capital of culture.
Early in the afternoon we went over to the Sarunas Academy to welcome the players who were arriving from all over Europe. In all, 22 countries are represented among the 40 kids -- they are Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine. It was pretty incredible having them all in the same room. I can't wait to see them on the court tomorrow!
We had our player and coach orientations tonight and then the Sarunas Academy hosted us for a nice dinner to kick off the weekend.
And the most random thing I learned about Europe today? They use different sized paper. It is taller and thinner than our normal 8.5 x 11 letter size. I have been here three times before and never noticed that. Every document that I had to print today had to be reformatted to fit the new size. I feel like I spent most of my day converting things. Time is written by a 24-hour clock like army time (for example it is 2300 right now -- 11 pm). Driving distances are kilometers. In terms of basketball, player heights are in centimeters and weights are in kilograms. To convert money -- which I did at the bank on my first day -- it is easiest to convert from Litas to Euros to Dollars. One dollar is equal to about 2.84 Litas, but the overall value of the dollar in Europe is very weak. The second interesting item of the day is that I realized my bathroom floor is heated.
Finally, I would like to thank Slobodan Miljenovic from Serbia for his kind email. Best of luck to your son here this weekend!