For the fourth consecutive year Mark Jensen (Head Coach, Whittier) led a team of 10 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) men's basketball players to Europe on an exhibition playing tour.
The team departed on May 31 and spent four days in Prague, Czech Republic sight-seeing and playing two games. The SCIAC All-Stars visited a castle, took a bike tour of downtown Prague and spent their days sampling gulash and gelato while walking the picturesque tiled streets of a classic European city with beautifully preserved architecture, unravished by the destructions of World War II that most of the rest of Europe saw. The team opened up with a game against a Czech 2nd Division team on night one. Perhaps struggling to get adjusted, the SCIAC team fell 80-72, connecting on just two three-point field goals and shooting 38% from the free-throw line. Cal Lutheran point guard KJ Moffett led the team in scoring in the losing effort.
The team found their legs in the second game, easily defeating a club developmental team and sharing the wealth offensively. Victor Costa (La Verne) and Tyler Green (Chapman) provided scoring from the outside while CMS all-conference center Kendrick Morris dominated inside. But the spark that lifted the SCIAC team to victory was largely provided by the scrappy play of Caltech guard David Kawashima who chased down several loose balls and assisted on baskets that pushed the game out of reach.
After four days in beautiful Prague, the team hopped on a train and had a quick stay in Bratislava, Slovakia where they were able to enjoy an afternoon in the quaint town with a bit more of a former Soviet-feel than Prague. Game three found the All-Stars in a back and forth battle with an extremely physical and mature Slovakian team. In the end, the SCIAC team's ability to play in transition and out run the bigger, stronger Slovakians was the difference that led them to their second victory in as many nights. The interior defense of Dylan McElligott (La Verne) and Morris kept the game close, while the crafty playmaking of Chapman all-conference guard Luke Selway and the scoring of La Verne guard Connor Head led the team to a hard-fought win, 93-79.
The last stop in the tour was the stunning Hungarian city of Budapest that lays on the banks of the Danube River. Budapest is known as the second city of lights and it did not disappoint as a walk across one of its many bridges provided impressionable views of a sparkling old world city at night. The team toured the city by day, enjoying the breath-taking views of a walk along the riverfront as well as visits to Budapest's oldest and most stunning synagogues, cathedrals and royal palaces. The last game of the trip proved to be a difficult challenge as the team found themselves knotted up with their Hungarian counterparts at half time. However, after a third quarter eruption from Pomona-Pitzer forward Jack Gale and Moffett, as well as a dominating inside performance by Morris and an outburst from Whittier College forward Jake Moore that concluded with a half court buzzer-beater to end the third period, the team was well on their way to their third victory in four games.
The last day in Hungary gave the team an opportunity to rest a little and soak in the world renowned thermal bathhouse of Budapest. After a day at the bathhouse and one last stroll around the city and some picture taking, the team sat down for one last meal on the banks of the Danube and enjoyed a dinner of schnitzel and gulash overlooking the city lights, before packing up and heading home.
The previous SCIAC All-Star teams have visited Italy, Greece, Iceland and Denmark. Coach Jensen commented, "This has become a bit of a tradition now and I hope we keep it going. Every year I'm amazed at how quickly the guys from different teams and schools come together and bond – guys who in many cases really dislike guys from other teams over their years of competition in the conference, but there's a kind of magic that takes place when you do a trip like this – you know, one last chance to play organized, competitive high level basketball. Traveling like we do and coming together like we do to compete under the umbrella of representing the SCIAC is pretty unique and special and just gives these guys a memorable experience that they'll have for the rest of their lives."
SCIAC All-Star Team 2018
Jake Moore, Whittier
Luke Selway, Chapman
Tyler Green, Chapman
Kendrick Morris, CMS
Jake Gale, Pomona-Pitzer
Connor Head, La Verne
Victor Costa, La Verne
Dylan McElligott, La Verne
KJ Moffett, Cal Lutheran
David Kawashima, Caltech
-- Courtesy of Whittier Sports Information --