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 7): Boy was this a busy day. We left the hotel at 8 am to get to the Sarunas Basketball Academy for Day 1 of the Jordan Brand Classic Camp. All 40 players and their country managers made it in on time and we were all ready to hit the court.
The morning session was run by Chris Thomas of SPARQ training who stretched the players, demonstrated basketball-specific drills and helped show some core training techniques. It was very eye-opening for a lot of the players who were hurting about 30 minutes into the two-hour session. Ganon Baker ran the afternoon basketball skills development session and worked with the kids on a series of dribbling drills.
The final evening session focused on the competition-side of the camp as players competed in a series of 5-on-5 mini-games to keep the intensity high and the on-court games exciting. The talent was absolutely amazing as kids played their hearts out looking to be one of the 10 MVPs selected to go to New York City.
We did not get back to the hotel until 9:00 pm after many hours in the gym. After quick showers, we headed over to Luky's which is a local popular restaurant. We were joined by all of the Nike country managers who chaperoned their players on the trip. It was pretty amazing to sit at dinner with so many people from around the world -- Spain, France, Italy, Estonia, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Greece, Israel, Germany, Russia, Turkey and Serbia. They were our bridges all week across the language barrier, however it was evident during the day that basketball truly is it's own global language. It is amazing how hand signals and even body language is universal in the game.
Dinner was phenomenal -- I had a pepper-crusted steak and potatoes. However, it took absolutely forever. We got to the restaurant by 9:30 and we did not get our meals until almost three hours later. There were a lot of very hungry people to say the least. On the menu were venison and beaver, but the most puzzling item was a stuffed black bear in the corner, that was covered by a blanket. When we asked the waitress, she said that she couldn't explain why, but they can't show it anymore. Hmmm ...
Tomorrow is the second and final day of camp. Then we are heading over to a nice dinner at Sarunas' house. It might be a long night -- and I leave from my hotel at 5 am on Monday. Wish me luck!