Hawkeyes in Greece: Final Thoughts

June 11, 2007

We have uploaded one final photo gallery that includes a mix of pictures throughout the trip to Greece. To view the pictures, go to Greece Central and click on the Bonus Greece Photos gallery (6/12/07).

Many thanks to Lisa Piper and Chuck Evans in the basketball office and also our Basketball Traveler’s tour guides Jason and Neal in coordinating everything and helping make the Greece experience unforgettable.

The players and coaching staff genuinely had the time of their lives. Being able to travel overseas with your teammates and combine basketball and traveling and get educated on a new culture is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

In addition to seeing all the incredible sites, everyone has their own memorable stories of interacting both verbally and non-verbally with the locales and trying Greek food. It took a while, but everyone was able to correctly speak a couple words in Greek and also tasted some Greek cuisine. Octopus, moussaka and rabbit were the most common food items tasted. After the main course, the players and staff couldn’t wait for dessert. Those who have traveled to Greece know what I’m talking about, the desserts in Greece are absolutely out of this world!!!

After talking with the players, it was clear what sites were their favorites. Topping the players’ sightseeing spots were the Acropolis, hiking up Mount Lycabettus, cruising to the three islands and the last day in Vouliagmeni.

The hike up Mount Lycabettus wasn’t on the itinerary and definitely was one of the highlights. After being disappointed earlier in the day with rain washing out the team’s plans to visit the Acropolis, the team decided to improvise and hike up the hill. The hike took about 30 minutes and was perfect timing because as we reached the top as the sun was about to set. The views were spectacular. After gazing over the city of Athens and snapping many pictures, the team enjoyed dinner at a restaurant atop Mount Lycabettus overlooking the city before making the trek down the mountain.

The Acropolis was also a great time. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and everyone learned a lot. In addition to being educated, the team enjoyed their time taking pictures in front of the historical structures and also spending time posing for pictures with Athens in the background. A group of us spent about 15-20 minutes thinking of certain poses and attempting the perfect pose. I have to say that manager Grant Snyder was the most creative.

The cruise to the islands was a unanimous choice as the best day. The team soaked up some rays on the ship deck, while also visiting the islands of Poros, Hydra and Aegina. Hydra was everyone’s favorite island as everyone jumped off a rock 15-20 feet high into the sea. The hour and half went so fast, but almost everyone made multiple jumps/dives. By time we arrived at the final island, most everyone was depleted of energy and just walked around the souvenir shops before getting back on the ship for our final 45 minutes aboard the ship.

The last day in Vouliagmeni was very uneventful, but much appreciated. The Hawkeyes went sightseeing and/or played a game the previous nine days of the trip and simply relaxed the entire day at the hotel resort. It was a perfect way to conclude the journey as the team enjoyed the beach, pool, food and hospitality and used the time to reflect on the wonderful trip.

As many of the players focused their blogs on the sightseeing, not many discussed the games against the Greek National Team. I have to say that I was very impressed with how Iowa played and competed. The Hawkeyes weren’t playing a scrub team, as this Greek team won the silver medal at the 2006 World Championships.

The Hawkeyes improved each game that culminated with Iowa playing its best in game three. Like last season, Iowa will not have a problem scoring points, but will look to improve their defense. The coaching staff emphasized defense during the team’s 10 practices leading up to the trip. Not only did the team improve defensively, but it matched Greece’s intensity and physical nature. It was good to see the Hawkeyes enhance their physical play, be aggressive and push back.

The final scores were not indicative of how well the Hawkeyes played. Newcomer JoAnn Hamlin excelled in games two and three. Wendy Ausdemore and Kristi Smith continued where they left off last season, leading the team in scoring, 3-point shooting and assists. After playing the last month of the 2006-07 season with an injured hand, Megan Skouby had solid efforts in all three contests. Jenee Graham continued her dominance on the boards. Lindsey Nyenhuis, Nicole VanderPol, Abby Emmert and Stacy Schlapkohl all contributed quality minutes off the bench.

Playing an experienced and veteran team like Greece, was just what the Hawkeyes needed. The Hawkeyes demonstrated poise, confidence and played a physical style of ball.

The 2007-08 season can’t get here fast enough.

SID Matt Weitzel