Sometimes, no matter how well you plan out your foreign trip -- and this goes for basketball teams as much as it does for regular old travelers like you and me -- pleasantly unplanned surprises end up defining your stay in another country. It's the random people you meet on the street who invite you back to their cottage in Galway for a pint and a visit, or the American ex-pats (and one Irish guy with a "Boston" neck tattoo) who put their hands on your shoulders for an obnoxious public rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." (Man, Ireland was fun.)
The BYU hoops team is having a similar experience in Greece this week. Like many college teams, the Cougars are currently in the old country for their August exhibition trip, where they easily handled two scheduled opponents on Wednesday and Friday and have another game scheduled for Monday at a U.S. military base in Crete. But thanks to a late withdrawal by Macedonia -- and former BYU player Brock Reichner's connections within the Greek basketball scene -- BYU also got an unplanned call-up to play in an international tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday.
KSL.com's Greg Wrubell has the details:
BYU is now scheduled to face the host Greece National Team on Tuesday at 12:15pm MT, then take on the Italian National squad the following day, at 9:45am MT. The games will be held in the 19,000-seat OAKA Arena at the Olympic Complex at Marousi, and both contests are likely to be broadcast online, with viewing details to be announced closer to the respective game times. Reports are that the games involving the Greek squad will be national television in the home country.
See? That kind of surprise is what European travel is really all about. Of course, BYU will have to step up its game considerably; playing games against international competition is a major step up from dominating Greek B-League teams 114-45. But whether BYU wins or loses on Tuesday and Wednesday, they can only benefit from the elite competition, not to mention the exposure and experience that comes with playing the Greek national team mere steps from the Acropolis. Seriously: How cool is that?
(Hat tip: Twitter follower Michael McQuain)