Marist Men’s Basketball Hopes Trip to London in December Will be More Than a Cultural Experience

Team chemistry and an advantage in recruiting are both potential benefits of the London Showcase, in which the Marist Men’s Basketball team will be competing against the University of Maine next December. The extended time that the team will be abroad could potentially boost team cohesion in the early part of next season. 

“I think this is going to be a great team bonding experience because I know I’ve been outside the country before, but I don’t know how many of the other guys have been outside of the country,” said Noah Harris, a current freshman guard on the team. “So this might be a first-time experience for them which will be great, but it will also help us get to know each other more. We will be on the flight for a long time and be in London away from everything so this will be a great experience and I can’t wait to get to know everybody even more and just build team chemistry.”

The game, which is scheduled to take place on December 4, will result in the team being away from campus for an extended period of time. This time away from campus and the U.S. could foster a much-needed bond within the team after the offseason has seen seven Marist players enter the transfer portal, with three already leaving for a new program.

“Chances are we will leave Wednesday night, and get back on Monday after the game on Sunday. So that’s a lot of time you are together doing different things, so I think that’s going to help in terms of building the cohesion of the team,” said Marist Athletic Director Tim Murray. 

This past season, St. Peter’s won the MAAC tournament and went on a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Murray attributed a lot of that success to their chemistry that was built on and off the court. 

“Coaches talk a lot about the locker room and I think we saw with Saint Peters, those kids were so locked in, they had spent a lot of time together because their coach was really concerned about Covid and didn’t let them go home for Christmas,” said Murray. “Although it was a challenge for the kids as they went through it, it helped them in the long run because they were forced to be together so their locker room and chemistry was incredible.” 

While there may be benefits, both on and off the court, Marist’s trip to London, the excitement of just going abroad as a team can also be seen by current players. 

“It’s going to be amazing just because we are in a different country with a group of guys that you battle with,” Marist sophomore forward Javon Cooley said. “It’s all just going to tie in, just to be out there in a different country, and it’s definitely going to be a great opportunity for us to bond.” 

While certainly an exciting game for the players, Harris kept the experience in perspective, talking about the importance of winning the game in addition to enjoying the trip. 

“We take every game seriously, we treat every game the same no matter where we’re playing. Being in London, I guess has a little more meaning to it, but we definitely want to get this win out there,” said Harris. 

Cooley added a similar sentiment conveying that the team will be both excited and ready for the opportunity. 

This offseason Marist has also welcomed in transfer power forward Stephane Ingo. The London Showcase will have an added significance for him because he will be competing against his former team, The University of Maine.   

The London Showcase which is an event coordinated with the National Basketball Hall of Fame will include Marist facing off against the University of Maine as part of a doubleheader that will also feature Kentucky squaring off against Michigan in the nightcap. The event was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, with Marist facing UMBC instead of Maine, but was canceled at the time due to COVID-19.

Marist has long had a relationship with the National Basketball Hall of Fame, competing in the Belfast Classic in Northern Ireland in 2018 as well as playing in many other tournaments and games stateside that have been sponsored by the Hall of Fame. This relationship was the main reason why Marist first got the opportunity in 2020 to be featured in the London Showcase. 

“We were actually the first team in solid on the reschedule,” said Murray. “They [The National Basketball Hall of Fame] work closely with us so that both teams are comfortable with the opponent. If they would’ve said, ‘Hey we have to play a game against Michigan’ where we have to play out of our minds, we probably would’ve said no. Maine is American East, I think it’s a good team for us to play, so we were comfortable with that.”

The games will be held in the O2 Arena with Marist-Maine being the first collegiate basketball game ever played in the venue. The Red Foxes and Black Bears will tip off around 10:30 a.m. EST and is expected to be broadcast on ESPNU which could contribute to the recruiting benefits Marist may see from the event. 

“This event will have TV. We’ll be on ESPNU and the Kentucky Michigan game will be on ABC,” said Murray. “I think the fact that you’re playing internationally and you’re playing on National TV, it’s not digital, I think that’s going to do a lot for recruiting in terms of the exposure that TV is going to give us to kids that are out there, and then just from recruiting a lot of kids right now saying, ‘Hey you’ve got a chance to go to London.’” 

Outside of the benefits of the game being broadcast on ESPNU rather than one of ESPN’s digital platforms, Murray also echoed the fact that there are very few teams in college basketball that have the opportunity to go abroad in any given season as another recruiting benefit. 

“A lot of basketball teams in the continental U.S. don’t travel internationally and we have the opportunity to do that,” said Murray. “Anything we can do to separate ourselves from everybody else is helpful and I think this is a separator.” 

Edited by Bridget Reilly and Jonathan Kinane   

Image from Hoopsfix.com 

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