Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Settling right in...

It's been about 2 weeks since my last post and I must say that quite a bit has been going on. So much stuff in fact that I lose track of how much time it's been in-between blogs, then I end up forgetting some funny things that have happened to share with ya'll. From training 2-3 days a week to school sessions 2-3 days a week to games now every weekend (home and away) there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of time to sit down and write, BUT I'm going to try my best to get a new post out every 2 weeks or so. Just a little side note as well, it's almost been 2 months already since I left on Feb 8th... Absolutely crazy how the time has been flying by!

I'll start off with bball news since that's what I'm here for haha!

On March 18th we had our first game of the season against the Rockingham Flames on the road. We had to travel to Perth to play because their gym wasn't ready to play in quite yet and that wasn't really a problem since the gym in Perth was much nicer than their's. BUT we ended up running into traffic on the way and that made the trip 3 1/2hrs rather than the usual 2hrs. So because of that the game started about 20 mins late, not a great start to the night. We only had 8 guys suited up that night as 4 of our players had something going on (like work or were hurt with an injury) that prevented them from playing. So we weren't at full strength at all but knew that we could still win this game. Nick our other import had just shown up a couple days prior and wasn't cleared from Basketball Australia yet to play, so that hurt us as well. The game was tight from the get go and we were down 8pts at halftime. We slowly started to lose momentum at the end of the 3rd quarter and even though we pulled to within 4 pts they ended up pulling away for a 19 point victory. We just didn't have enough legs to keep up for the whole 48 minutes. It was a tough loss when we know we are definitely beating that team at full strength. It would've been nice to get a win right off the bat to start the season, but we'll just keep gelling and working hard. I personally played well and had 23pts and 11rebs, but I had to play a blistering 47 minutes and was completely gassed after the game! When our full team is back in effect I won't have to play hopefully more than 40 minutes, anything more can be killer on your body (especially on double header weekends).

Here's a pic from the Rockingham game:

This past Saturday we had our first home game of the season against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns. They have an AIA import by the name of Dean Hadley. I'd never met him until I got out here (in Perth at the Blitz weekend of games) but he's a really cool dude and another guy to touch base with over the season and chop it up about life and the Christian faith/walk. I also got to talk with their coach (Ash) after the game, he's a guy that I was in contact with over emails during the whole recruiting process and also a Christian guy. Things never worked out because it was right when I was signing with the Slammers, but he was always a really nice guy to talk to and showed interest in me playing for them. This game we had almost our full squad together (just missing one kid that was in the States), finally! Our home venue is pretty sweet and I bet one of the better ones in the league. One of Russell's older girls that is part of the acrobatic dance group in town had a performance at halftime which was crazy. The flips, spins and twists that they were doing were pretty insane, but the crowd loved the entertainment! The gym was pretty packed with around 450 people and a ton of the kids from the schools showed up too, so that was fun. It was the best crowd they've had in a while and we're hoping they continue to support. The game was close from the get go and we were down 5pts after the first quarter. We had only had a week or 2 of trainings together to try and gel with Nick now playing so we were working things out on the court as we went. At halftime we were down 11pts I think but the game was always tight. We got the lead down to 1pt in the end of the 3rd quarter and the crowd was starting to go nuts!! They had a few runs in the 4th quarter where we didn't answer with a score and next thing you know they ended up winning by 13pts. It was a great game for us though and I think the fans and sponsors had a great time. We executed our game plan pretty well and did the things we wanted to but they shot the ball great and that was pretty much the deciding factor. I played well and had 24pts, 12rebs and 4 assists. That earned me MVP honors for the game and a $50gift card to the Eaton Tavern (which I heard has great food! So you know I'm pumped for that lol). One thing that is different here than anywhere I've played before is after each game both teams and all the sponsors get together in one of the meeting rooms for food and drinks to give out awards and also "shoot the breeze" with eachother. It's a way to mingle with guys from the opposing team and to get to know the sponors as well. It's a pretty cool deal.

Here's some pics from our local newspaper before our home opener against Kalamunda:

Here's our commercial for the first game as well, enjoy!

Now that the bball is all caught up with I'll move on to other things...

Last Friday was my last school session at Cowanarup Primary School, which is about an hr. South of Bunbury. It's an extremely small country town and there's only 220 kids in the school, but they are awesome. SOOOOO right out of the gates at the very first session (4 weeks ago) I was there each class that I had one after another during the course of the day asked me the usual question, "can you dunk?" and I answer with a "yes I can" then they proceed with "Can you do it now?". So to avoid having to do a gazillion dunks over the next 4 weeks I told each class that I would do a dunk on the last day! It was a brilliant idea :), especially if they were to forget over time hahaha, BUT they didn't. SOOOO of course as soon as I step on campus last Friday the kids are all going nuts about this dunk haha. I guess the principal even put it in the school paper. So as the day went on I decided instead of doing a dunk per class that I would just do one at the end of the day before I leave while all the kids are outside eating their lunch (this would save more energy for me too lol, I'm getting old now :) ). So at 1:10pm the bell rang and all 200 kids ran out to the court to take a seat enjoy their lunch and also "the dunk" that they'd been waiting for. It was a ton of fun getting them all pumped up and cheering before I threw one down to a bunch of ohhhhhhh's and ahhhhhhhh's followed by some clapping. The kids enjoyed it and the teachers had some fun too. It was a great way to end a good 4 week session!

This past Sunday I decided to check out a local Christian church and wait to check out the new Cathedral at a later date. I did some research online and came across Grace Christian Church and it looked like a young/fun place to go so I headed there. To my luck that weekend there was a men's retreat going on in Busselton (40mins south) and for the most part the church was full of women hahaha. Talk about feeling a littttttle bit out of place haha, but it was cool and the service was great. It's definitely a young church with some good worship music and solid leadership. The woman who was speaking that day focused on this passage from Mark 4:13-20 and she summorized the passage like this, "Hear the word, believe the word, act on the word, bear great fruit". It's quite the passage to think on because how many of us hear something but never quite believe it. Or even if we do believe it how many of us actually act on it to see if what will come from our good actions will be fruitful? It definitely struck home for me personally as there are always day to day challenges where I fall short by not acting on my beliefs. Knowing what's right but almost being to lazy (faith wise) to act on it. God wants us to not only pursue his word but also act it out and share it with others. Bear great fruit. I enjoyed the service and will most likely return there again next week although I do want to check some other places out just to see what's out there.

After church finished I decided to drive up to Mandurah to meet up with Big Ben to watch Casey Crevelone and the Magic play against the Willeton Tigers (who we have on the 7th or 8th). I figured I'd go up there to watch the game and also hang out for the night, maybe even stay over. It was a great game and the Tigers ended up winning in the end. Casey played really well and was upset they didn't get the W. It was nice to get to scout both teams for our future match ups!

After the game we decided to grab some meat and condiments from the store for a "barby" aka barbeque at Casey's teammates place (which was RIGHT on the beach!). Casey's GF (Jocelyn) just got out to Mandurah a few weeks ago and is going to be staying the whole season or as long as her work visa allows, so she is actually living at that house with Casey's mate and his wife. It's a pretty sweet situation for Casey to have someone out here to experience everything with him and grow together. It's probably THE BEST situation for a professional basketball player to have while being overseas if they are in a serious relationship (which a lot of guys aren't or don't want to be). Unfortunately it doesn't always work out for someone to just drop everything they are doing in their life in the States to come out and be with you while you continue to live your dream in whatever country your contract is in. Would I love to have my special someone with me? YES. Is it going to happen for me anytime soon? Nah :( . But that's just another one of the many sacrifices you get for playing ball overseas and being away from everyone you love...

Sorry about that I just went off track there a little bit haha!

ANYWAYS, we ended up going for a quick swim before then endulging on our feast of a barby. It was a lot of fun to meet some new people and chat it up over some good food. After that the three of us went back to Casey's host families place for the night. We watched a couple interesting documentary type movies called "Life" (similar to the series on the National Geographic channel) about animals, mammals, insects, bugs, etc. I gotta say, on the projection screen it was pretty amazing stuff! It was great as always to be able to catch up with some AIA guys, especially Ben and Casey as I've grown really close to those guys! I can't wait for our next weekend of fun.

As far as things back home go... The Smith fam has finally found a house and all is official! It's a beautiful house up in the Alderwood area, just minutes from the mall. It's on a quiet cultisack in a nice neighborhood. My mom was extactic about the whole deal and I think a huge weight was lifted off both her and my dad's shoulders (as the moving out date was closing in). I can't wait to come home to a new crib! Big shout out to my sister for finding the listing the day it opened!!

I think that's it for now. Life is really moving pretty fast especially since the season has started up. We play every weekend which is nice and time starts to fly by. Our next game is Saturday up in Geraldton against the Bucaneers which is another country team up north about 7 hours from us. So it will be a long bus ride, but a fun one! I've heard some stories from past seasons and it sounds like good times. Pictures to come soon! We're still looking for our first win and I think we can get it this time! Prayers would be greatly appreciated!

I hope everyone is loving life and enjoying every minute of it! I miss everyone a ton and think about home all the time. It's a crazy world but it's meant to be that way, otherwise it wouldn't be life. Thanks to everyone for following my blog, I enjoy being able to share these amazing experiences with all of you. Prayers, Blessings and much Love!

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"

Saturday, 12 March 2011

5 days till season opener!

Wow here we are's been almost 2 weeks since my last blog and things have really been flying!

I left off with a "scratch match" AKA scrimmage game against the Mandurah Magic on my last post. Well the game ended up going very well, it was a full 48 minute match (which is a SUPER long game BTW lol), and we didn't have our full squad in action for the day but we came out on the losing end after a great effort by 9 points. So that was a real positive outcome for us to be that competetive against a team that finished in the #9 spot last season without our full team suited up. I personally had around 30pts and 11rebs and it was a good opening impression for me in front of some of our board committee that came to watch. It was a lot of fun to play against Casey too, he played well and has a good team this season. It's gonna be a blast to play almost every game against a good friend, always makes for some good ol' trash talking :)

Last weekend was the "Blitz" tournament in Perth. All the teams from the SBL were there in action and playing 2 games each day. This was going to be our time to showcase that this season was going to be nothing like the last one (1-25 record...ouch). The gym facility we played at is a newly built arena that the Perry Lake Hawks play in for their home games. It was absolutely HUGE! On one side of the building there were 6 full bball courts, 2 X 2 X 2 and on the other side of the building were the 2 main courts (with A/C thank GOD! haha). The game formats for the weekend were 2 twenty minute halves with a running clock, so they went pretty quick and the scores were quite low (like in the 40's or 50's).

We started off our first match against the Geraldton Bucaneers (a final four team last season). The game started off great as we jumped to a 21-10 lead and I personally had 8 quick points. At halftime we were down 2pts. We ended up losing by 20pts. We only scored 6 points as a team in the 2nd half!! Talk about a brainfart haha. BUT we definitely showed that we have the potential to hang with a top team in the league. I finished that game with 12pts and 5rebs.

We then took on the Stirling Senators (usually a middle to bottom of the ladder team). This was a tight game from start to finish but we pulled out a victory by 1 point!!! I was SO happy to just get the "W" hahaha. This was literally only the 2nd "W" the Slammers had seen in quite some time, so I was happy about that. The team went well and our young boys made some nice plays and showed their potential, but there's still a lot of work to be done. I finished that game with 14pts and 6rebs.

The whole team stayed together that night in a hotel and decided to go out for dinner as a group at a restaurant right next door. It was fun to get all the fellas in one spot and get to eat and chill and spend some "team time" together. Our next game was Sunday morning at 9:30AM so I headed back to my room, got ready for bed, chilled and watched some movies on TV. Some of the boys on the other hand wanted to "get on the piss" (drink), even though we had disscussed as a team prior to leaving Bunbury that there would be NO DRINKING (or maybe 2 beers at dinner but that's it) for that weekend. I tell you what, these guys out here LOVE to drink no matter what the situation hahaha. That's going to be one of my missions with these guys while I'm here playing, to get them more serious about preparing for games and saving the partying for afterwards(hopefully after a win!). Thankfully everyone was good and the whole team showed up on time for the early AM game.

Our first game was against the powerhouse Lakeside Lightning. I was excited because my good buddy Ben Beran and also another AIA guy Luke Payne (who i hadn't met yet) play for Lakeside. This is a really good team that always finishes in the top 3 year in and year out. Last season they lost in the championship game by 8pts and the year before that they won the "Ship". So we knew it would be a tough game for us. To my surprise their coach decided to give some of his players a "rest" for their afternoon game so he sat both imports (ben and luke) and also 2 of their really good local guys. Even without their full team they still had a very solid squad and we ended up losing by 2 points. They are going to be a tough one during the season. I finished that game with 12pts and 5rebs.

Our last game of the day and tournament was against the U20 Metro State team (under 20yrs old). Every SBL team had to play at least one game against the U20 squad. I don't think any SBL team had lost to them and you can bet I wasn't gonna let us be the first!! I had watched them play earlier against the East Perth Eagles and my good buddy Colin Matteson(from Seattle and also played in Darwin with me). They were a talented team of young kids and played hard, so I knew it wasn't going to be an "easy win". SBL teams were only winning by 15-20pts at most. This game wasn't easy by any means as we were only up 2 points at half time. I had a good first half and scored 15pts to keep us ahead. We finally took ahold of the game and ended up winning by about 16pts. I had to play the whole 40 minutes due to a few of our guys being "hurt" from previous games, but that's ok as I want to be in premium condition for the long season. I finished that game with 22pts and 8rebs.

Overall it was a really good weekend for us and we finished up with a 2-2 record. I think the coaches and board committee liked what they saw and can see the potential this team has to have a successful season. We now just have to continue to build as the time goes on.

Only 5 days until our season opener against the Rockingham Flame, and a very winnable game might I add as they didn't look to strong at the Blitz tourney. We will see how things go but I'm overly excited to get back on the court and get this club back to winning some games!!

Article from the Bunbury Herald after the weekend games...

I decided to stay that Sunday night up in Perth since I had nothing on Monday to do. So I asked Ben Beran if I could stay with him at his host families house (to just happened to be my old host family from the AIA tour in Perth in 09'). The Weir family is an awesome family to be around and they LOVE the game of basketball. They actually came on Sunday morning to watch us play Lakeside because they are supporters for the Lakeside squad. It was an awesome night as we went over to Jane's (host mum) daughters home to celebrate her husbands Bday. There was a big barbeque and a night filled with Settlers of Catan Seafair Edition (which is a ton of fun as well as the original version). After a late night Ben and I headed back to his house to just lounge for a little while and catch some ESPN (which is now on out here at certain times! It's pretty sweet to get that taste of home.) then we zonked out! Monday consisted of some more settlers and an awesome lunch cookout then it was back to Bunbo aka Bunbury for me :) . The weekend was awesome and I can't wait to have many more with some good bball and fun with the fellas. This really is the perfect situation to have SOOOO many friends in one spot playing the game we all love.

It's pretty cool being the only team in Bunbury because then we get all the "media attention", where as in Perth there are like 10 teams that are all within about 30 minutes of eachother. So last week I did 2 TV interviews, one for GWN7 and the other for WIN TV. It was pretty sweet getting interviewed and the kids loved seeing it on TV. Then as I showed up for my usual bball session at their school they went nuts! Along with the TV we also have the newspaper and radio who all sponsor the Slammers in some fashion. I am currently trying to get a DVD copy of one of the TV interviews to put online so everyone can check it out!! Stay tuned for that!!

Last night we had our "singlet" presentation banquet for both the men's and women's team. It was basically a time for all the sponsors to get to come and mingle with all the players and coaches. It was a good time and I got to meet all the important people who are giving us the money to have a season. So its important now for us to WIN so that the crowds will fill the gym and bring some money in for the sponsors. That's the name of the game....WIN!!!

The new women's import player flew in about a week ago, her name is Lavesa and she's from Miami. She's also living here in the Donovan family house with me. She's a real cool chick and we get along great and have a lot in common. She's already brought some good laughs into the house and should make for more good times! Our other mens import player Nick is suppossed to be getting in on Wednesday, which is awesome! I don't know yet if he'll be able to play on Fridays game because of paperwork stuff yet but we're hoping he can! That will make for almost a full house for the next 5 months, but many good times I'm sure.

On days when we don't have practice I tend to make it down to the beach for a little while to read, relax, and soak in the sun :). BUT only once I've gotten my daily workout in of course! I've quickly found that that "beach time" tends to be my "quiet time", where I can think about life, love, God, basketball, family, etc. The beach here to me is so peaceful and amazing that I always end up lost in my own thoughts. I am so blessed to be here and have this opportunity to play ball and hopefully change some lives along the way with my attitude and influence.

A beautiful beach sunset...

Perfect place for a little R & R

The book I just currently finished is called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. My good friend and old England teammate John Olinger reccommended some books for me to read while out here for the season. If you want to read a good book about faith and where you stand in your current Christian walk then give Crazy Love a try. It is a real "ball buster" in so many ways. It really gets you to take a step back and look at your current life to see how exactly you are living your life for Christ and if not then how are you going to change that. It's challenging in so many good ways. There of course is plenty of encouragement throughout the book as well, as the author Francis admits to having his own "issues" just like anyone else does. It was a great read and I reccommend it to anyone, even those not of the Christian faith or religious at all. It is an eye opener and will help to change your life for the better.

It is the time of Lent now for the next 40 days, and my mom usually always makes us give up something. A sacrifice to the Lord as he has sacrificed so much for us. As I was brainstorming for ideas of meaningful things to give up other than the usual pop, candy, tv, fast food, etc. I found myself coming to a blank... Not that I BY ANY MEANS don't have things that I could give up, its just that I couldn't think of many "meaningful" things that were really a "problem" or major issue for me. I then started to think "why not just make this a time to START some positive habits???" Like reading more (both the Bible and just in general). Giving more of my time to help others around the team and house. Giving more of my money to those who need it more. Giving more verbal encouragement when sometimes I bite my tongue. In the end I think I came up with some good ideas and it'll be a good Lent this year. I am also giving up listening to Rap/Hip Hop music that is particularly crude with language and lyrics (this will be a tough one). You are what you surround yourself by...

As far as updates from back home goes... The house in Lynnwood that my parents were set on buying didn't get the "GO" because of a bad inspection. SOOO now its back to the "house search" drawing board, which I can imagine is a long and stressful process, but we're hoping that sometime pops up soon that will work out as time is closing in for them to move out of our current home! Other than that I don't think that there is too many "new" things going on back home except for the usual day-to-day activities.

I think that about wraps it all up for now! I'm having a blast out here and it's only getting better. I hope everyone is doing well and life is rolling right along. Send prayers out to those in Japan and anyone effected by the tragic earthquake and tsunami. I miss and love you all! Here's some pics and also a video I made of my Bunbury home...

Here is a link of a video that I made of my crib here in Bunbury! Enjoy it haha!

Here's a pic of my new car for the season. I'm calling her "Great White" lol! It only seemed right...

This is where the Donovan family posts pictures of all the exchange students and others who have stayed in their home over the past 2 years.

This is the Donovan fam. Back row left to right- Laticia, Sophie, Bianca. Middle row- Russell and Karen. Front row- Alex and James.

Until tomorrow...
"make it happen"