International Exhibition Basketball

Aussie Travellers find Carrboro was well worth the trip

ewarnock@newsobserver.comJanuary 12, 2014 

If the young athletes players from the Aussie Traveller Ryde Bulls had come all the way from Sydney just to play basketball, they might have found last week’s visit to Carrboro High School a little disappointing.

Carrboro had little trouble in defeating the touring Ryde Bulls 67-45.

James Scott and Matt Mackinnon led Carrboro with 15 points apiece. Scott, who also finished with 10 rebounds, scored nine points in the first half to help Carrboro run out to an early 27-13 lead.

The Ryde Bulls never against got the margin under double digits, despite a good second half for 6-7 post Cooper Wilks and his team-high 13 points.

But the score seemed unimportant to the Aussies, who had come 9,600 miles for something more. They wanted to sample basketball in the nation where the game was born, and they got plenty of that.

“I told our players that if they could take anything back from here, it should the intensity with which the Americans play the game,” Ryde Bulls head coach Jim Arkell said Monday night. “

“They’re physical; they’re fast, and they’re determined. That’s instilled in the American boys from the beginning.”

Composed mostly of players from St. Joseph’s College in Hunter’s Hill, a suburb of Sydney, the Ryde Bulls left Australia for a tour of the Carolinas shortly before Christmas.

The weather was a hot and sunny day in northeastern Australia when they left, Arkell said, and the Ryde Bulls arrived in a chilly winter in North Carolina.

“Australia is having a really hot summer,” Arkell said. “It’s good to get some cold air.”

The Ryde Bulls were one of three sets of Aussie Basketball Traveller clubs visiting over the holidays. Most of the clubs, similar to AAU teams in the United States, brought high school age players who were on summer break in Australia.

St. Joseph’s sister school, Marist Canberra, sent a varsity program into New York (where they encountered a minus-15 wind chill in a blizzard,) and others to Texas, where they got to interact with some Dallas Mavericks. A Marist JV squad finished third in a North Carolina Junior Varsity holiday tournament.

In Durham, Melbourne’s Casey Cavaliers played (and lost handily) to Riverside High School. But the Cavaliers also won a holiday tournament in Dallas the previous weekend and played in Raleigh on Thursday.

The Australians paid their own way to get here, costing the Ryde Bulls about $5,500 per player, according to Arkell.

“Most of these boys will never play basketball after they finish school, but a couple have ambitions of getting onto a team here in America,” Arkell said. “If they can take back that sort of intensity that these guys here (in Carrboro) showed tonight, that’ll stand us in good stead for the rest of our competition.”

Carrboro also gained from the experience.

Scott, who matched up well on the various Ryde Bulls who ventured into the lane, liked seeing the visitor’s single post offense, something Arkell had picked up on earlier tours of California and Washington state.

“You learn some new things. You learn a different style of basketball,” Scott said. “It helps you prepare for things you might see from other teams.

“We got to see them play four out and one in, kind of West Coast basketball. It’s nice to see that, because not a lot of teams here do that.”

Carrboro coach Jon Alcox said the lessons go beyond the basketball court. His players, who gave Carrboro High School T-shirts and coffee mugs to their visitors before the game, also learned by sharing a post-game meal with the Australians. Several Carrboro players’ families hosted Ryde Bulls for the night.

“The biggest thing for us in this is getting to know kids from other countries who have the same love of basketball,” Alcox said. “They’ll get to know each other and maybe make a friend.”

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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