In Valencia, some of them ran for cover at the explosive popping of firecrackers, thinking they were under fire.
In Barcelona, they toured the famed Camp Nou and learned about the city’s rich soccer tradition.
In between, they would play cards, crack jokes and eventually succumb to the delirium that only eight-hour bus rides can induce.
Along the way, they started to come together to form the latest edition of the Boston College men’s basketball team.
For ten days, the Eagles traveled through Spain, playing games against area teams and taking in the sights and history. From a basketball standpoint, the trip gave them the chance to see where they stand going into another difficult season in the always tough ACC.
“It gave us a good opportunity to see how far we’ve come and how far we need to go,” sophomore guard Lonnie Jackson said.
Playing against European teams was a challenge for the relatively young team, which returns only one upperclassman from last season, junior guard Danny Rubin.
“It was a lot different than playing teams from the states,” Rubin said. “These guys were much older and physically more mature than us. We had to get used to the physicality that the teams in Europe play with, along with some of the quirky rules.”
Those quirky rules, including one that allows the ball carrier to take an extra step, confused the players, resulting in them getting called for many travels. If you add in the language barrier and the fact that European teams run faster offenses and share the ball more, it becomes clear the Eagles had their work cut out for them.
They wound up going 1-3. Their lone win came against Real Canoe Madrid, 60-56. The Valencia Basket Club of Spain’s top league handed them their worst lost: a 93-66 drubbing.
“I think we learned to play through adversity and to continue to play hard even when things aren’t going our way,” Rubin said.
Not only was that valuable lesson learned, but the Eagles began to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.
Jackson pointed out that the team is starting to gel. Passes are crisper, players know where their teammates will be at any given time, the offense is ticking. As of the moment, the trouble spot is the team’s overall defense.
“We’ve been working hard to be on the same page and we’re improving,” Jackson said.
The trip wasn’t only about basketball, though. And, while everything about it was memorable, one place the team visited stood out to the players.
“I really enjoyed all of our games and time we spent together,” Rubin said. “But La Sagrada Família was the most amazing sight I think I have ever gotten the opportunity to see.”
Added Jackson: “Gaudí’s architecture was amazing. Every little detail on the church had meaning, and the church isn’t even finished being built.”
Construction of this majestic and intricate church, located in the center of Barcelona, began in 1882 and is not expected to be complete until around 2030. That means the church has been under construction for the last 130 years and the plan calls for another 18 years of work to make Gaudí’s spectacular vision a reality.
Puts the first two years of Steve Donahue’s rebuilding program in perspective, huh?