A 17-hour flight connects Australia to Dallas, but high school basketball players who travel from Down Under have more to adjust to than just a change in seasons.
“We have a shot clock in Australia, 24 seconds,” said St. Joseph’s Academy senior guard Breidan Keneally. “We’re used to very fast-paced possessions, very natural basketball.
“Here, it’s very systematic and they’re very slow in the way that they play, so it’s a big adjustment.”
Because of the shot-clock rule, the Joeys’ head coach Adrian Crow said his players play hard every possession and have had some difficulty adjusting to the slower-tempo games.
Yet, there is one element of the game that the players have enjoyed witnessing while competing against local teams.
“The skill level,” Joeys senior guard Jack Dillon said. “A lot of people in Australia are very one-dimensional with their game, whereas here they have a lot of different moves they can go to and a lot of things they can just pull out of the bag that you don’t expect them to have.”
Copperas Cove played host to the Northern Territory Alligators earlier this month during their Dawg Pound Showdown while Lampasas hosted St. Joseph’s last week.
“I’ve seen them, they have some weapons,” Cove senior forward Frank Alvarado said before facing the Gators. “But we have some weapons, so I’m interested in playing them, but they come all the way across the world.
“It’s just an interesting thing to do every year.”
While local players get a kick out of playing teams that are unlike any of their district competition, Lampasas head coach Aaron Nuckles also finds it to be a useful way to teach his team.
The Badgers held the exhibition game against St. Joseph’s Academy, who are currently on tour during the summer break from school.
“I wanted them to play someone that they didn’t play last year,” Nuckles said, “(that) they didn’t win, that they didn’t lose to, that they knew nothing about and that knew nothing about us.
“Go in with clean slates and see how we play.”
The Joeys started their tour competing in tournaments in Shelbyville and Zavalla before facing individual teams in Bowie and Lampasas.
They will round out the end of their tour facing a couple more teams, including No. 15 nationally ranked South Garland, before heading to Los Angeles on their way home.
Crow finds the American tour for his players to be beneficial for them both on and off the court.
“Our boys get to experience different culture,” Crow said, “and play a United (States) game and the boys being able to meet different students from overseas. Just being here in this town and experiencing a whole different atmosphere than what we’re used to experiencing in Australia, it’s been brilliant for us.”
“I think it’s really just a blessing for us to get to experience this,” Keneally said. “Not a lot of people get to have such a good time with their teammates.
“That’s really important, especially when it’s really about getting better as players and a team, and working together as a team.”
The experience is once in a lifetime for all involved, both local and abroad, and everyone on the court grows.
“We just needed to play someone we didn’t know,” Nuckles said, “for the fact that he comes in as a labeled shooter and it changes how you play.
“So let’s not worry about the other team and go in and play, and it was refreshing to see that.”