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.
Travel Day (March 9): I am sitting in the Copenhagen Airport at the moment in Denmark. We left Vilnius this morning at a very early hour and took off in a very bad snowstorm. I now know the job that I would never want in my life -- the de-icer guy who is up on a crane at six in the morning at the Vilnius Airport preparing aircrafts during winter weather. I do not think it could get much colder than that job. In fact, of everyone that I tipped this week -- he is the one guy I would really want to thank for his service.
We took off at 6:50 am for Denmark -- and I slept the entire flight. I woke up in time to see the Öresund Bridge as we were landing. It is a two-track rail and four-lane road bridge-tunnel of almost five miles across the Öresund strait which connects Denmark to Sweden, I actually watched a special about it on the Discovery Channel a few weeks back. It was pretty cool to see from the air. Then I turned my attention to Marc who is traveling back with me -- who kept falling asleep and almost laying his head on the shoulder of a very uncomfortable woman next to him. Good times
Our layover in Copenhagen is about four hours so it gave us the chance to catch up on some sleep, emails and meals. I had a "danish" danish -- and it was fantastic. We found a quiet room which is totally silent other than the fact that they pipe in very loud airport announcements every 30 seconds. Our next flight is nine hours long to Washington, DC and then another five hours to Phoenix. I am not sure if I will have time in D.C. to update the blog because I need to go through customs, but I will have a final entry later on.
Now that was a long flight. However, I would like to give Scandinavian Airlines a lot of credit because it was much more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be -- plus I slept for more than five hours of the nine-hour trip. I just can't believe I still have five more hours to go! The airline had some pretty cool features including individual movie screens with about 15 different selections, plus video games and a view from an external camera at the front of the airplane. It was pretty cool to watch yourself take off -- and then it became slightly nauseating. By the way, I loved how the airline said that you had to fasten your seat belt, could not smoke ... and no one was allowed to sleep on the floor. That's a new one. Final thoughts on the trip to come a little later when I get to Phoenix.
Well, I walked in my front door around 9:00 pm, over 24 hours after I left my hotel in Vilnius. Overall the air travel was not as bad as I thought it was going to be -- especially because I slept another 4+ hours on the final leg. Sorry I did not post any more photos, but the majority of my day was looking at the back of the seat in front of me. Not very interesting.
As I look back at the trip, I know that there are so many people to thank for such a successful week. Obviously our group worked very hard, so all of the folks from Nike and Jordan Brand deserve a lot of credit - especially Gentry Humphrey, Ilona Wiley and the architect of the program, Mike Hackman. Our European contingent of Susan Mulders and Marin Sedlacek were tremendous in selecting the initial group of players. The coaches - Raphael Chillious, Ganon Baker and Chris Thomas - carried the camp each day and gave the players such an incredible experience. And in Lithuania, we could not have done this without the help of Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Linas Kvedaravičius, Egidijus Mikalajūn and Raimonda Rutkauskaitė. Your staff was truly first-class and you all really stepped up in so many ways to make this event happen. And back in the U.S., thanks to Shaun Krislock for his tech support on the web site all week.
So I am off to bed to get back in the right time zone. It was a week that I will never forget in my life. I was very fortunate to meet so many incredible people along the way and I received emails from around the world in response to my blog. The best moment of the week? Seeing the faces of the MVPs when they were announced to the crowd at the end of the All-Star Game. To some of them, it is the break that will give them the exposure for a successful basketball career and the potential to make a lot of money for their families. Looking back at 2008, one of the MVPs from Lithuania was a 6-9 forward named Jonas Valanciunas who many people got to see in the Jordan Brand Classic International Game. Jonas used the opportunity to star in New York and sign a deal with a EuroLeague Team -- and was recently voted as MVP of U16 European Championship. Jonas led his team to Gold averaging 14.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in eight games. He registered a double-double five times. Hopefully another success story can come from these 10 prospects. And that's what this is all about. The Jordan Brand Classic Tour is designed to help the players identify their weaknesses so they can improve their game, give them the tools to succeed through our instructors and provide an opportunity for them to succeed. Basketball is truly a global language.
Thanks again for following along and check back here for next year's blog!