Pionniers à Montréal: SHU Men's Basketball's Blog From Montreal
Men's Basketball Head Coach Anthony Latina is writing a blog on the Pioneers' trip to Montreal this week.
Saturday, August 24
This is our final morning in Montreal in what has been a great experience for all of us. The trip was a success on many levels. We were able to finish the trip 5-0 but we know there is still much more work to be done before our opening game against Fairfield University on Saturday, November 9th at the Harbor Yard Arena.
This was a great opportunity for all of us on the trip to get to know each other better and see another culture and country. I want to thank our tremendous hosts John Dangelas and Peter Yannopoulos. Their hospitality and professionalism could not have been any better and they went to great lengths to make sure all of our needs were met. They are first class people and run a first class operation! I hope we not only set the foundation for our team that will carry us through a challenging season but also created memories for our student athletes that will last a lifetime!
Friday, August 23
It is our final full day in Montreal on what has been a terrific trip for our players, coaches and staff. The guys will be playing their fifth game in six days so we are going to have to dig down deep to play with the energy and enthusiasm we have been playing with the entire trip.
After our daily team breakfast, we watched game film as a team from yesterday's game. It is an exercise we do after every game we play and we believe it is a great teaching tool for our players. Our focus is always in continually trying to improve both individually and as a team and film study is a great way to do so. After the 45 minute session, we let the guys rest for the afternoon until our pre-game meal at 3:00pm.
Our final game against Concordia was a fast paced game and we were able to do enough to earn an 83-70 victory. Like all the teams and coaches we faced on the trip, Concordia was a gracious host and we greatly appreciated the hospitality.
Thursday, August 22
Today was a day to test our stamina. We took to the road to travel to Quebec City - a two and a half hour ride north east of Montreal - to play our fourth game of the week. Our toughest road conditions of the trip.
Upon arriving in Quebec City, we picked up our tour guide for the afternoon who is actually a legendary basketball coach in Quebec City, Jacques Paiement Sr. (on the right in the photo above). Paiement Sr. led the Laval University basketball program for many years and is considered one of the best coaches in Canada. He was kind enough to bring us around the city and share his knowledge of beautiful Quebec City.
We entered into an area that was once a battlefield outside the fortress walls of the inner city. The field sits along the St. Lawrence, Canada's largest river. The next stop bright us to the front of the parliament for the province of Quebec where an enormous fountain flows. It was a gift from France.
Upon entering the fortress walls, we travelled into Old Quebec. The cobblestoned streets and old style French architecture gave you the feel as if we were in France itself. We entered the main square and walked to the promenade in search of a snack. We found ice cream, gelato and another view of the St. Lawrence River, only this time cruise ships from all over the world were docked nearby. A quick team photo was taken and we were onto our pre game meal.
An Italian restaurant with a bread bar for grilling slices of homemade bread was very popular. After we finished our pre game meal it was on to Laval University for our game. Our gracious tour guide was about to become a coach for the opposing side. Jacques, now an assistant at Laval after having stepped down to fight and beat his battle with prostate cancer a few years back, passed the torch of head coach on to his son - Jacques Paiement Jr.
The game with Laval was another physical contest but I was very pleased that our team was able to overcome that and get our fourth win in four games. It was a great day in Quebec City and tomorrow will be our fifth and final game of the trip.
Wednesday, August 21
The players have the day off from basketball so we spent time as a team touring the city and learning about all it has to offer.
First stop: Olympic Stadium. On the eastern outskirts of Montreal sits the 1976 Olympic Games Complex. A $1 billion concrete stadium that juts out of the skyline, Olympic Stadium was the home of the 1976 Olympic Games that featured Bruce Jenner, Gold Medalist in the decathlon, and Nadia Comăneci, Gold medalist in gymnastics. The team took to the medal platform and for a moment represented the United States at the world games.
On to stop two: St. Joseph's Oratory - the second-largest basilica outside the Vatican - is the healing church. There are crutches left behind from those who walked on their knees up the wooden steps to the sanctuary where they are cured of their ailments.
This was an opportunity for the team to learn about the human spirit and to learn about giving back to the community. Saint Brother Andre' founded the church to give back to the people. His heart is preserved and encased below the sanctuary.
Last stop on the tour, the top of Mont-Royal Park. The view is the best from Montreal.
After dinner in the famous Bell Centre, home of the NHLs Montreal Canadians, everyone headed to McGill University to watch the Redmen of McGill take on the Orangemen of Syracuse.
That game proved to be a tough loss for the Redmen but gave our guys an opportunity to see one of the premier programs in the country up close and personal.
Tomorrow we head north to Quebec City.
Tuesday, August 20
Preparing for our third game in three days, our Strength and Conditioning Coach Karen Bell instructed all of our players to take ice baths after breakfast to minimize their soreness during tonight's game. Karen has been a tremendous addition to our program and she is always thinking of ways to help our players be as physically ready to compete at their highest level. I am thrilled with the gains our players have made in the areas of strength and conditioning this offseason and Karen deserves a great deal of credit for that progress. We're very lucky to have her and I greatly appreciate the work she does for our program.
Tonight, we are playing McGill University and it is likely to be our toughest game to date. McGill is very well coached and we expect it to be a physical game. In addition, McGill's assistant coach is John Dangelas who is our host on the trip, a terrific one at that, and the individual who has organized our entire tour. Our game against McGill proved to be our toughest one to date as we had to overcome a 16-point deficit in the third quarter to win a very close game. We were fortunate to get a positive result, and I was very happy with the toughness and grit our team showed, especially in the second half when our backs were against the wall.
Our guys have earned a well-deserved day off tomorrow and we are looking forward to a day of sightseeing and team bonding. We will end the day tomorrow watching Syracuse play the same McGill team we played tonight. We cannot be more pleased with the way the trip has gone so far and are excited for the rest of our tour!
Monday, August 19
We started today like we will every day in Montreal with our team breakfast. We then went on a brief walking tour of Montreal. Montreal is a beautiful city with a great deal of culture and history to offer, and we want to make sure that our players use this opportunity to fully experience what Montreal has to offer.
We also spent some time watching game film of yesterday's game against UQAM. Watching film is something we do after every game we play because we believe it is one of the best teaching tools for our players. One of our team goals on this trip is to make sure we improve after every game and film work will help us achieve this goal.
Shortly after our pre game meal, which is generally four hours before we play, we headed out for the second game of our trip. Despite feeling much better today, we decided to keep Evan Kelley out of this game for precautionary reasons but are hoping to have him back for games later in the week. The drive over to the gym went much smoother than yesterday and we were able to get our second win in two days against a talented Brookwood Elite travel team. I was very pleased that we had balanced scoring with five players in double figures and another good team effort.
We are trying to establish our team identity on this trip and we feel that we're heading in the right direction. We had food waiting for our players back at our hotel and then called it a night in preparation for our third game in three days tomorrow. McGill will likely be our toughest opponent this week.
Sunday, August 18
We started the day with a team breakfast at the terrific buffet in the hotel. We headed out shortly after to our first game at UQAM. What should have taken 10 minutes took an hour and a half because one of the main arteries in downtown Montreal was closed off for a cultural parade. In true Pioneer fashion, the team pulled together and walked the last few blocks. Before tip off we exchanged gifts with our opponent at half court which is a tradition in Canada when they play a team from another country. A piece of SHU will now remain at UQAM as they received a Sacred Heart Banner from us. Our players received the keepsake seen below.
Our first game as the 2013-2014 Sacred Heart University Men's Basketball team was a successful one. While there is plenty of room for improvement, we were very pleased that we had contributions from many different players and played the game at our tempo.
We did suffer one injury. Evan Kelley dislocated his left pinky finger after a very good game.
A quick trip to the emergency room with the help of our wonderful host John Dangelas and Athletic trainer Leo Katsetos as well as some well wishes from his teammates and Evan will hopefully be back in business later in the week.
We celebrated with all-you-can-eat ribs and a walk to Old Montreal along the water. The team took in the sites and enjoyed the many singers, artists and street performers. A great day has come to an end with many more to come.
Saturday, August 17
After 10 productive practices, we were ready for our trip to Montreal. Our tenth and final practice was a little over an hour and after our team meal in the Boardroom we boarded the Sacred Heart Pioneers bus and departed for Montreal. Besides our normal travel party of coaches, student-athletes, Manager Chris Dumas, Athletic Trainer Leo Katsetos, Strength and Conditioning Coach Karen Bell and Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Mike Haase. We are also joined by Professor Michael Giarratano, one of our newly appointed faculty mentors. Professor Giarratano is a great supporter of Sacred Heart Athletics and will be a wonderful addition to our program and an excellent resource for our student-athletes.
After a relatively smooth seven-hour bus trip through Connecticut, New York and over the Canadian border into Montreal, we checked into our hotel. We are staying at the Marriott Chateau Champlain which has fantastic views over looking the city.
After eating at one of the city's best rotisserie restaurants we called it a night in preparation for our first game Sunday against the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM).