STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Most athletic teams try playing exhibition matches against teams that will simulate the type of competition they will face later on in the regular season, but the Drake Men’s Basketball team had a different approach this past summer.
With over two months left until the start of the season, the team traveled to Denmark and Italy for three games against professional international opponents over the span of 12 days. In addition to helping the Bulldogs gain valuable playing time, the tour also gave the team an opportunity to see a part of the world that few of them had experienced before.
“It’s always good to just get away from the university,” said junior center Jacob Enevold Jensen. “There’s a little bubble here and everyone’s kind of their own, but to get outside of the university you get to know people a bit better and get to hang out with them in a different setting than we usually do.”
Not only did Jensen appreciate the change of setting, but he was also able to return home. Jensen was born and raised in Denmark, although he hasn’t been home in several years.
“It was pretty cool, getting to show my team where I live,” Jensen said. “We even went to my host family’s home so they could see where I’ve grown up a little bit.”
Seeing their teammate’s roots added to the bonding that accompanied the trip, giving the players an added perspective to Drake’s 7-foot center and the country they were visiting.
“I think it was great to see Jacob’s family and see how happy he was to see them,” sophomore guard Reed Timmer said. “It was nice to see him being able to reconnect with how he grew up and for us to see that.”
Not only did the team enjoy seeing their fellow Bulldog’s homecoming, but Jensen had the opportunity to watch his teammates be surprised by where he grew up.
“It was just funny seeing how they react to things,” Jensen said.
Jensen stated that the highlight of his trip was seeing the Coliseum in Rome, Italy, a sentiment reflected by several of his teammates.
“You couldn’t walk than 10-feet before walking into something that was 2,000 years old,” junior forward Kale Abrahamson mentioned.
The trip wasn’t purely focused on the aesthetic and cultural differences across the Atlantic. There was still basketball to play.
The Bulldogs played their first game overseas on August 15, facing off with Værløse, hailing from Horsholm, Denmark.
Regardless of their pro status, the Bulldogs were able to control the court and led throughout the game. Up by 10 after the first quarter, the Bulldogs went on to win the game 83-55 and start their international play with a record of 1-0.
Drake’s second match would prove to be even less of a challenge for the Bulldogs, thrashing AP Castelfranco, an Italian professional team.
The building they played in lacked air-conditioning, making for a game full of sweat and substitutions, but it didn’t seem to faze the Bulldogs as seven of them would score 10 points or more in the game.
Up by 36 at halftime, Drake only extended on their lead in the second half, and ended up walking away with a 114-51 victory.
The third and final matchup of the trip turned out to be much closer than the other two, as Drake took on BC Atletas on August 21 in Ponte Buggianese.
Atletas has been in the 1st division of Lithuanian basketball for much of their history, which explains their toughness and talent on the court.
BC Atletas got out to an early lead thanks to stellar shooting from behind the arc, but Drake was able to battle back behind Abrahamson’s 18 points, 12 of which came in the 3rd quarter.
“I think our guys kind of thrive with our style of basketball with being physical and getting the right shots,” Timmer said. “I think it definitely helped our chemistry and our teamwork to try and play together as much as we could and just to carry that over to practice here and eventually to games.”
Closing the gap to within two possessions in the game’s final two minutes, Drake was unable to complete the comeback, losing 84-79 and finishing their European tour at 2-1.
“The third game was a good challenge for us,” Jensen said. “It was maybe more of a wake-up call that we still need to be mentally tougher and we need to play some more and get better, but overall it was a good learning experience for us.”
Even though the basketball trip ended with a loss, it still provided a positive learning experience for the Bulldogs both on and off the court.
“We were together 24-7 for 12 days, (and) obviously you either have to bond or just hate each other, so I think we ended up bonding,” Abrahamson joked. “It was more of a bonding thing than a basketball thing, but the basketball was great as well. It was a great trip for us.”