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Down Under, Cadets play, win

– Concordia assistant boys basketball coach Tim Reinking and seven students went Down Under for eight days this summer to learn about a different style of basketball and, more importantly, a different culture. Whether experience, which included winning eight of nine games and a tournament title, will translate to being better on the court remains to be seen. But the trip did leave the group with once-in-a-lifetime stories.

“We are going to find out exactly if it helps or not this year,” Reinking said. “We are going to have to wait and see.”

Reinking and seniors Thomas Starks, Brian Gremaux, Jacob Reinking, John Kuker, Ryan Gross, Marq Rogers and Brandon Webb ventured to Brisbane, Australia, during July to take part in a program conducted through Down Under Sports.

“One thought about this trip was that it was a chance for them to get to know each other more than they already did,” said Concordia head coach Josh Eggold, who didn’t make the trip. “In that respect, the kids were a total buy-in because of how much they enjoy being around each other. Any kind of shared experience like that, that is unusual, gives someone a more cultural awareness.

“The thing that really stood out for them wasn’t so much about basketball as just traveling to a totally foreign place and being away that long from parents and friends. They were tourists over there and took advantage of a lot of different things to do. I don’t think the basketball part of it was the highlight as much it was such a unique experience.”

Reinking and Gross’ grandfather, Neil Keller, were the chaperones. While over there, the team picked up another player, Mitchell Gotsch, from Utah, and Kuker served as a player/manager for the team.

“They look at things differently, even though they speak English,” Tim Reinking said of experiencing another country.

It all started in November 2010, when Reinking went to the parents with the idea of taking the trip after talking to a coaching colleague from Saginaw, Mich. A year-and-a-half of fundraising brought the necessary $24,000 and the group spent 36 hours on an airplane, flying first to Sydney and then to Brisbane. After landing, the group practically went straight to practice.

“They were tired and beat,” said Reinking, who was the head coach for the Cadets from 1997 to 2007. “I was impressed how the kids handled it, but at first I was worried about how tired we would be.”

It was a group Reinking was familiar with after having coached them off and on since they were fifth-graders. Jacob Reinking is Tim’s son.

The group didn’t exactly rough it, staying in an 80-story apartment building in an affluent part of town on the Gold Coast. The trip had plenty of sightseeing, including a trip to Sydney at the end of the trip. Some of the group went on to Hawaii afterward.

Almost the entire time, there was an unusual rainy season that the Fort Wayne contingent didn’t mind, but the locals complained about.

On the court, the Cadets excelled under unfamiliar and subpar conditions. There were different rules and more physical play with stronger players. But the quality of play and quality of officiating wasn’t what the players were used to in Indiana.

There were three-point lines that were farther back and players who liked to get up and down the court a lot, even though they weren’t that swift.

The complex the team played in was a Spiece Fieldhouse-type facility with four gyms and baskets that were attached to the wall and swiveled out about 15 feet over the court.

Of the 15 to 20 referees used, Reinking said about two of them were of the quality of Indiana officials.

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by e-mail gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648. To discuss this column or others he has written recently, go to the “Sports” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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