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Slater on a Mission

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lipscomb sophomore guard Josh Slater recently returned from a sports mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

The trip gave Slater an opportunity not only to play against the Dominican national teams and top club teams, but also an opportunity to serve underprivileged children.

The trip was organized by SCORE International, a group that organizes many sports mission trips around the world each year.

He was joined on the trip by current college basketball players, including players from Jacksonville, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Clemson.

The following is a journal of the trip by Tommy Kyle, SCORE’s National College Basketball Director.

Wednesday:
After a few car problems by some of the players on the team, we all finally assembled in Atlanta for practice. It was short and to the point due the fact we had to start around 8 p.m. and we knew the flight was going to be early the next day.

Thursday:
4:00 a.m. came early this morning. That is the time we needed to wake up in order to make the flight to Miami and then we were off to the Dominican Republic. The only good thing about getting to the airport that early in the morning is that there are no lines for check-in, in fact we were surprised there was anyone even working that early in the morning.

Though we have only been in the D.R. a few hours, there are a few things that are apparent here - it is hot and humid, we have a couple of characters on the team, and we are going to have a great time.

We are scheduled to play four games in the next four days. It should be a great time!

Friday:
The first game of the trip perhaps is the toughest game as it provides the toughest competition of the trip. The team boasts three NBA players: Larry Turner (LA Lakers), Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks) and Fransico Garcia (Sacromento Kings).

Given that our team had limited practice time and no game experience together and we were playing against a team that was much more experienced and unified, our inexperience showed in the opening quarter of the game. Our team shot a mere 22% from the field while the National team shot 47% from the field.

Our team found itself down early and was never able to overcome the deficit losing 77-49. The leading scorer was Rayvern Johnson with 17. Marcas Allen finished the game with 6 points and 8 rebounds.

The one shining moment of the game occurred in the 3rd quarter when Jerai Grant had a thunderous dunk that brought the crowd of 5000 Dominicans to theirr feet.

The game received a tremendous amount of exposure. It was broadcast nationally on television; highlights were shown that evening and in the newspapers as well.

Saturday:
Day 3 began with a trip to Jumbo's Superstore to stock up on food and supplies to deliver to a small village outside the city of San Pedro. As the bus rolled down the dirt roads, kids began to run along side and were eager to meet the players.

The players were given a tour of the village hand in hand with children of the village. None of the guys speak Spanish causing a language barrier. Many words were spoken through laughter and hand signs.

Each family received a bag of food that will feed the family for at least a week. This gave our guys a good appreciation for the amount of food that they consume daily!

In the afternoon we got back to playing basketball. Tonight's outcome was far better than last nights, with 67-65 victory. The team was lead by Demontz Stitta with 17 points, Lucas Hargrove and Rayvern Johnson each had double figures with 16 and 13 points respectively.

Perhaps the key to victory though was the rebounding of AJ Jackson (10) and Elgin Bialey (8). Both players played strong and physical in the paint.

Josh Slater (6) and Will Poule (8) both contributed in the scoring column including two key three pointers.

Tomorrow night's contest will be again against the Domican National "B" Team. The team is looking forward to having a rematch of sorts, though there are different players on this team than the one they faced during Friday's game.

Sunday:
Sunday was a meant for a day of rest and that is exactly what we did this morning. After three days of rising early, we got caught up on some much needed rest. It didn't last long though because were back in the capital this evening playing the D.R. National "B" team.

It was a hard fought game and though the team played its best basketball of the week, we fell short of a victory 68-73.

To their credit the players not only had to play the five players on the court but also the officials. In the United States there is a "home court" advantage, well here it is a "home Country" advantage. Rough play is expected and encouraged, unless that is from a player from the U.S.

Going into the final 12 seconds, the team was down three with a chance to tie the game. But, a whistle was blown from the stands causing the team to stop playing and loss possession of the ball. It was a terrible way to end such a terrific game.

Tomorrow is a day of redemption though as the team will play its final contest against the entire national team, including the players from the first game. The guys are excited to get another shot at showing just what USA basketball is all about.

Monday:
Today was our last day in the Dominican Republic, and perhaps the best too.

The day got off to rough start when our bus broke down about half a mile away from the hotel. Luckily this was before we were picked up and not once we were aboard. A bus breaking down is not a rare occurrence. This was the fourth time one of our busses has engine or tire problems.

We waited for another bus to arrive and arrived at the game 45 minutes late. Each of our games started late. It is referred to here as "Dominican Time".

Even when the game was nationally televised, our game was delayed 45 minutes for the anticipated crowd. They simply cut into whatever program is airing to televise the game.

The game today was against the entire national team and we played much better. Until the 3rd quarter we had a small lead. But in the final five minutes our stamina failed us and we ended up falling 66-60.

The highlight of the game was in the closing minutes when Elgin Bailey hit three consecutive 3-pointers. I'm not sure what the Dominican team thought of the 6'8 265lb center pulling up from way beyond the arc.

The afternoon was spent at the local market. The guys got a good lesson in negotiating and bargaining with the local crafts people for souvenirs to take home. Once they realized that their price wasn't what they really had to pay they got into the art of talking the price down. I think some of them may try this next time they are at the Wal-Mart.

Tomorrow we fly home, but all will at lest that trip was a success on so many different levels. The friendships that have been forged will serve them well as these teammates face each other this basketball season.