Bobcat Abroad: Tommy Freeman (February 20)

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Getting back to the UK meant getting back in the gym and back together with the guys. It had been a great week home and had refreshed me from the daily routine of practice, lifting, and Xbox. I had shot a few times while back in the States but for the most part I budgeted my time to spend time with family and friends. The time away reignited my fire to compete and get better. We spent the next few days getting our wind back and finding our form again. I played on the 2nd team throughout the week as I was banned for our game that Friday due to my two unsportsmanlike fouls I had attained in the Leicester game before the break. I did my best to push the guys that would be getting a majority of the minutes in the game on Friday. We needed to continue to get better and it allowed me to have more freedom offensively and work on different areas of my game. We boarded the minibus and travelled up to Mersey for the 3rd time this season.

I shot around with the team until it was time to retire to the locker room to get our final instructions and match-ups form coach. I filled each player’s water bottle, brought the basketballs to the bench, laid out the towels, and collected the shooting shirts after warm-ups were over. I had to sit at the end of the bench and couldn’t join the team in time-outs. Each break in the game I ran the water bottles down to the end of the bench set them down and then returned to my end of the bench. I supported the team as much as I could from my seat and counted down the shot clock each time it ran below 10. Our defense was staggering and the Tigers struggled to score. Tin Tin stepped up in my place and picked up to my role of scoring from the perimeter. It was a fantastic effort for the team. I found myself eager on the ride home for the next day as we had Durham coming to our gym for the 2nd of our three meetings on the year. We had struggled against the Wildcats in the first game and the game had been decided in the waning moments. We hoped to play better and be able to space ourselves out from the Wildcats this go around. Richie had a great game stat wise as Prezzie and I took a back seat and watched the big game work. He ended the game with 30 points and 20 rebounds. Carlos also stepped up to the plate and had been playing well of late. We were off to a good start after the break and stayed hungry in the gym as our goal was to finish in the top 4 by the season’s end. The next week was back to the routine of practice, lifting, and hanging out with the guys. We were due to face the Cheshire Jets for the first time of the season on Saturday. They had a very talented team but had gotten off to a rough start. We knew they could score and had to do a job on their top three threats. We were able to accomplish this and limit their stars to a bad shooting night. By doing this we were able to pull away from the Jets in the game and win our first three games after the New Year’s break.

The past few days I had been attempting to get my paperwork together in order to start my Master’s degree in International Business Administration at Worcester University. I had filled out the application with my contact details, courses I had completed at OU, and the reasoning that I was interested at starting my degree at this point in my life. I found my transcript on the OU website and received a reference letter from a previous Professor via e-mail. I printed both documents and started the registration process with Coach James. We walked to the registrar where I sorted out the rest of the paperwork and had my picture taken for my student ID card. I was cleared to play in the University game later that evening. I went through my normal pre-game routine and arrived at the gym early to get some extra shots up. The jerseys were brought to the locker room and to all of our surprise they had not been washed since the last time they were used. They smelled of sweat and I gagged as I pulled it on over my head. We took the floor against Durham’s University team and they also had a few of their BBL players that were playing on the team. When our Uni team had travelled to Durham earlier in the year, Durham had beaten them by over 20 points. By the end of the match we were the team that won by 20 and we now had it in their head that we were the much better team. We would see them again in the BUCS Championships in Sheffield in the Semi-Finals if both teams won their first game.

The rest of the week was geared towards preparing for the Sheffield Sharks. We had let the last meeting get away from us and lost on a last second shot. We aimed not to do this again and looked for our 4th win in a row. We travelled to Sheffield on Friday evening. We came out sluggish and trailed nearly the entire game. Richie got into foul trouble and we were forces to fall back into a 2-3 zone. They had some role players filling in for injured starters that we were not keying on. Against our zone those players were comfortable and knocked down jump shots. Their ability to knock down shots coupled with our lack of energy was the perfect combination for another upsetting loss. It came down to the final play again and their guard hit a fade away twenty footer with two hands in his face. Our last ditch effort was Arnas hoisting a running eighteen footer with a defender draped all over him. The referees did not blow their whistle and the shot fell short of the rim, another one point loss at Sheffield. These were the games that we needed to win if we were going to compete for the league title.

The rest of the weekend I spent attempting to find a villa to stay at in Hilton Head for Memorial Day weekend. After hours of searching and multiple e-mails I finally found one that was suitable for the group I was going with and was near the beach. I also attempted to register for the classes that I would be taking for my Master’s Degree. On Saturday evening most of the team gathered for sushi. I had never eaten it before and am always up for trying new things. I ordered salmon with cucumber and cream cheese. To my surprise I really enjoyed it. More than the food it was nice to hang with the guys outside of the gym and just relax with a few beers at dinner. We took turns trying each other’s sushi rolls to figure out which ones we liked and which ones were a little too fishy for us. The topic of basketball did not arise and I am glad it didn’t. We get so caught up in the game that it’s all we do or discuss at times. It was nice to enjoy the company of each other over something over than the game that we all loved.

The next week seemed to be so busy. Tuesday was by far the busiest day that I had in Worcester to this point. Prezzie and I finished our morning lift and made our way over to the Registrar to get his classes sorted out as he had just received his transcripts and reference letter from the states. He had his picture taken for his student ID and we were then instructed to head into the city campus to meet with Roger Saunders about enrolling into classes. We made the walk into town and found our way to his office. To our surprise the classes that we wished to take were on Tuesdays. One had just finished and was from 9:15 to 12:15 in the afternoon and the other was from 1:15 to 4:15. We had an hour until our first class. We had begun the day with no intention of attending classes until possibly the next week but quickly came to the realization that today would be our first day of classes in the UK. Prezzie and I made our way to a diner where we had a full English breakfast. We finished and walked back to campus where we would meet for our first class. We sat through a gruelling 3 hour lecture. It was not so much the content it was the fact that we not understood what we were getting back into. Classes, lectures, and papers were now a reality that sank in slowly but hit hard once we came to the realization. We finished the lecture and walked back to the St. Johns campus where we were scheduled to receive massages. I was exhausted by the time we reached the other campus. I had my neck massaged as it had been bothering me due to the time I had been spending slouched over playing video games. Worcester University has a partnership with Ball State University and I spent my time while getting a massage discussing Muncie with the instructor of the message students that were working on my team mates and I. She had visited Muncie a few years ago and recalled the scale of the facilities that were part of the athletic training program that Ball State possessed. I explained the difference between athletic training in the states compared to what these massage students did at Worcester University and with the sports teams. It was almost as if there was a language barrier. The students simply did not understand the money that is pumped in athletics in the States. However, it made the time fly by and before I knew it my massage was finished and I was on my way home. I needed to take a nap before practice. I was worn out from class and not having a great night’s rest.

This blog is long overdue along with the next one that I am currently writing. I hope this finds you well and everything is going well. As always I want to express my thanks in taking the time out of your day to read through my experiences as I find my way through my first year of being a professional. Until next time take care of yourselves.