The Aggies Basketball Itinerary:
Monday, Aug. 5: Basketball Clinic with SCORE Basketball Program (10 a.m.); Basketball game vs. Villa Duarte Team (7 p.m.)
Tuesday, Aug. 6: Visit Pasitos de Jesus Girl’s Orphanage (10 a.m.); Basketball game vs. Invivienda Team (7 p.m.)
Wednesday, Aug. 7: Visit the Straw Market and sightseeing (9:30 a.m.); Basketball game vs. Mauricio Baez Team or possibly the Dominican National Team (7 p.m.)
Friday, Aug. 9: Flight arrives back in Greensboro (12:17 a.m.)
SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Darkness sets over the dimly lit streets filled with mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians and vans. Foy navigates his way through the streets as if he is driving his van through some type of obstacle course. “Usted vive en America, No?” he asked as he looked back at his passengers, seemingly not worried about the four or five mopeds shooting out in front of his vehicle. “Yes, we are from America,” says senior North Carolina A&T men’s basketball guard Lamont Middleton after getting the translation from A.J., Foy’s partner sitting in the passenger’s seat.
This is about the extent of the conversation between Foy and the three members of the A&T Aggies men’s basketball team sitting in his van. They have grown more than weary of Foy drives his vehicle, which is noticeably different than the way they see driving in the United States. On three different occasions on the way to the Santo Domingo facility where the Aggies will practice for their three upcoming exhibition games against semi-professional teams, freshmen Nick Reese and Michael Briscoe along with Middleton notice Foy drive on the wrong side of the road.
The first time he almost comes in contact with an SUV. The second time, it is a horse and the third time a moped comes right up to the van’s windshield before Foy swiftly moves out of the way. None of this phases Foy like it does his young passengers. In fact, he seems quite comfortable tailgating mopeds and even pedestrians, each time blowing his car horn impatiently as they refuse to move immediately. As Reese diverts his attention away from Foy blowing his car horn every 10 seconds, he looks to his left to notice two, sometimes three people riding one miniature moped. Perhaps remembering an earlier statement from head coach Cy Alexander, Reese says to himself, “This is wild.”
“You’re going to see things here, you’ve never seen before,” Alexander says to his team in his hotel room following eight hours of travel from A&T’s Corbett Sports Center to the Dominican Republic for a five-day trip of community service, sightseeing and three exhibition games. “You’re going to find out quickly things here are different than what you’re used to seeing in the States. On the way here, you saw that people living in very poor conditions. Then you see where we are now, this resort, it is very different than what you saw out there.”
The inspiration for the Aggies’ trip comes from Charleston Southern head coach Barclay Radebaugh. During a recruiting outing for both men, Alexander and Radebaugh discuss Charleston Southern’s trip to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2012. Radebaugh raves about what a great learning experience it was for his players. Months later, Alexander is giving his speech from a DR hotel. “In this country you have the haves and the have nots,” he says. “There is no middle class. We brought you here because we knew there are some things you’ll experience here that you will not experience in the classroom back at A&T. Enjoy this time. Learn from it. Grow from it.”
As Foy’s van arrives to the arena, the other 23 members (which include two of the players’ parents) of the Aggies traveling party arrive in a small bus not exactly suitable for 6-foot-plus basketball players. As they file out, their experience driving over to the arena seem to be similar to the players in Foy’s van.
Two bats circle the roof top as the players walk into the arena. Yellow and green seats sit on top of a concrete foundation throughout the arena. There is a digital scoreboard high atop the roof behind each basket. The court is elevated from a concrete surface. The rooftop is old as is the paneling surrounding the arena. “Don’t worry about the bats, we’re here to make shots,” Jay Joyner, the Aggies associated head coach, says to break up the players’ discussion about the bats.
It is a normal one-hour practice, the only difference being Batman’s friends and the players sipping water from a plastic bag instead of a bottle. David Conrady, a former collegiate men’s basketball coach and the national basketball director for Score, a Christian organization that serves as the host and guide for visiting college teams, explains you cannot always trust tap water in the DR. Therefore, the bagged water is safer.
Practice ends, thus ending a long day of flights, going through customs and going through a bit of culture shock for some players who have not even turned 18 yet. The only thing remaining is the interesting ride back to the hotel. A&T’s five days in the DR will be a fun learning experience for all, young and old, coaches and players, trainer and PR guy.