COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Thursday will mark the unofficial start of competition for the men’s basketball team at Tennessee Tech University. Although the team has been training regularly at three-a-day practices with the school year still two weeks ahead, the coach Mike Sutton’s Golden Eagles leave Thursday to take a break from technical workouts to play in a foreign tour in the Dominican Republic.
G.O. Ministries, a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to the ministry of short-term missions, sponsors brief trips to numerous countries around the world with the goal of preparing participants to support the efforts of Christian leaders abroad.
The TTU team learned of this opportunity to travel abroad through team connections with G.O. Ministries’ founder Brooke Brotznan of Louisville, who coordinated the trip for Tech with a missionary in residence, Will Partin, in the Dominican Republic. The team will be staying in Cabarete, on the northern coast of the DR.
“We’re very thankful that our team has the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic with G.O. Ministries as well as the opportunity to play basketball against the various teams from the DR,” said head coach Mike Sutton. “A lot of people have assisted in this process and the trip is a good way to start off pre-season and see how the team can bond and come together in preparation for the upcoming season.
“It’s going to give us a lot of different experiences at once,” Sutton continued. “I think we will benefit from seeing a part of the world that is extremely different from our country and people who haven’t been as fortunate as we are. That’s a big part of it. It will be good for the guys to be able to use basketball as a venue to learn about the people of the Dominican Republic, while also working on their own skills as a both people and student athletes representing Tennessee Tech and Cookeville.”
Under the sports outreach program, the team will spend a week playing against different teams from the Dominican as well as participating in various activities with G.O. Ministries. They will compete in a total of seven games during their time abroad, generally playing games twice daily against some of the best competitive teams in the Caribbean. On Friday they will match up against two semi-pro teams in ABASACA and Sameji in Santiago at Club Sameji.
On Saturday, the Golden Eagles will take on the Indios of San Francisco de Marcois, another semi-pro team, and the Metros of Santiago, again in Santiago but at Arena Cibao. Sunday will bring just one contest against a fourth semi-pro team in Marineros of Puerto Plata in the Puerto Plata Pro Arena.
Monday will be an off day, and on Tuesday the team will go up against Villa Gonzalez and the Puerto Plata 22-under team, again at the Pro Arena in Puerto Plata.
The stiff competition in the DR is something that Sutton believes will undoubtedly benefit the team in the coming season, as the teams that Tech will be going up against are comprised of professional athletes, rather than college students.
“These are some of the best players from that part of the world,” Sutton said. “We’re certainly going to have our hands full competitively.”
Additionally, the team will handle other minor obstacles that they aren’t accustomed to:
“We also have to deal with a couple other things like the 24-second shot clock in international play, and the rule changes,” Sutton said. “The rules aren’t that difficult but can be a little tricky Since we have (German newcomer) Dennis (Ogbe) and Coach Beasley with their international experience we have tried to tap into their experiences to help with nuances of international play. The shot clock makes a big difference, but hopefully our players will be able to adapt.”
The team will return to Tech on Thursday Aug. 26, just in time for the start of the 2010-2011 academic year on Monday, Aug. 30.