Eleven Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) senior men's basketball players departed Los Angeles for France recently, on what has become a yearly tradition for Whittier head men's basketball coach Mark Jensen and the fortunate graduating seniors he travels with. Players from six of the nine SCIAC schools made the trip to France this year, including SCIAC Athlete of the Year and D3.Hoops All-American Daniel Rosenbaum from Pomona-Pitzer, and SCIAC All-Conference selections Nick Segura (CMS), Kyle Ferreira (CLU) and Ted Ducey Award Winner Austin Cole (CLU). The rest of the team included Conner Longmire, Jacob Aruta, Joey Toyama and Ryan Mendez from Whittier as well as Corwin Feerick and Reed Nakakihara from Chapman, and Evan Gustafson from La Verne.
Immediately upon arrival, the team headed out to experience the Eiffel Tower and to get acquainted with one of the world's most iconic cities. Day two included more sight-seeing around Paris, including a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral, the Latin Quarter and sampling local street foods. Game 1 proved a fairly easy victory for the SCIAC All-Stars as Cole, Ferreira, and Aruta led the team in scoring while Mendez and Feerick provided sparks off the bench. Day three included a breath-taking bike tour through the streets of Paris followed by a boat tour of the Seine River at night that saw the Eiffel Tower lit up in all its beauty. Day four allowed for more sight-seeing as the team visited the Arc de Triomphe and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur and got its second victory over a much bigger and more athletic French club team. This time the scoring punches came from Whittier's Longmire and Toyama as well as Pomona-Pitzer's Rosenbaum with La Verne's Gustafson providing a much needed inside presence.
From Paris, the team hopped on a high-speed train to the southern coastal city of Montpellier, and prepared for game three. On this night, everything clicked for the SCIAC seniors, as Rosenbaum and Segura led the way in scoring and Nakakihara brought the crowd to their feet with a dribbling display and acrobatic finish that pushed the lead out of reach. Before the team's final game on day eight, the SCIAC seniors and travel group of more than thirty family members and friends had a few days to enjoy Montpellier and its nearby beach, soaking in the sun and playing a friendly game of beach soccer. The group also visited a hillside winery as well as the quaint old-European village of Saint Guilhem before some rock-diving and canyoning in a countryside river gorge.
On the last night in France, the SCIAC All-Stars took on their most difficult opponent in a pro-team named Sorgues outside of Montpellier. The team's size, athleticism and professional experience proved too much for the seniors, despite getting off to a good start and making it close in the end, led in scoring by Cole, Longmire and Segura, the SCIAC team fell to Sorgues by eight points. After the game the group spent one last night soaking in the sights of Montpellier and enjoying some gelato before bidding France farewell.
This marks the fifth consecutive year that Coach Jensen has led the SCIAC basketball tour to Europe, including prior trips to Italy, Greece, Iceland/Denmark, and Czech Republic/Hungary. "I can't say enough how memorable these trips are for our players," Jensen noted. "They get to form new friendships with other SCIAC athletes, they get to compete one last time, and against pros, and they get to see the world. It really is a special trip each time."
-- Courtesy of Whittier Men's Baskeball --