Youngsters from County Upper School got a taste of the basketball-crazed United States of America during a nine-day tour.
A 13-strong party from the Bury St Edmunds school’s successful academy programme travelled to Des Moines in Iowa, via Chicago, last month to sample life at the top level of the game.
This was the eighth year for the trip and coach Darren Johnson said: “The whole point of our academy is to give all of our players the opportunity to learn, understand and experience what it takes to become an elite player and the opportunities out there.
“I have coached in the pro game and also at the highest level of college basketball in the USA, so know what I want to see in players for them to make it.
“I’m also aware what is out there for players who make it.
“I have found it very hard to translate this to people in England who have never seen the facilities in the USA and who have never played against players who technically will be competing with them for scholarships at colleges.
“The whole experience helps players understand how tough and fast the game is in the USA but also what is on offer for those who want to make it.
“We have now helped 30 players earn a place at an American University to continue their educational and basketball careers and feel that this trip has truly helped them achieve this.”
During their American adventure, County Upper played against teams from Quakerdale Prep, DMACC and Iowa Central Community College.
They also watched training and games, as well as rubbing shoulders with coaches and players from Roosevelt HS, in Des Moines, Drake University and Iowa State Uni.
Johnson said: “It is a whole different ball game out in the United States and many youngsters find it a real eye-opener.
“Some of the teams they played are among the top 25 college and prep school teams in the country.
“Not many kids in this country get the opportunity to do something like this but they absolutely loved it.
“One of my coach mentors once told me ‘tell me I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will understand.”
County Upper’s under-14 girls team are tied at the top of the National League East Conference following a thrilling 48-46 victory over the Bucks Hornets.
The table-toppers were led in scoring by Alex Popova with 22 points, supported by Georgia Tansley and Lizzy Sanders with 10 and eight points respectively.
Coach Johnson said: “Our defence is getting better and better in every game.
“I’m really proud of the girls and the way we were able to beat a very strong Bucks Hornets team.”
County Upper under-16 boys suffered a 39-67 reverse against a strong Cambridge Cats outfit in the National League East Conference.
The team were led in scoring by Patrick Laycock with 13 points, supported by Luca Beadle and Brandon Marshall both with seven each.
Despite having several players missing and three others stepping up from the under-14 set-up, under-16 girls narrowly lost 38-34 against Croydon Elite in the National League South East Conference
Coach Johnson said: “The team played well and again showing their improved skills and fitness level over the last four games.
“The team never gave up and fought to the very end. I am proud of what they achieved.”
County Upper were led in scoring by Eleanor Jones with eight points.
The trio of Molly Owen, Megan Utting and Alex Popova added six points each with Amy Mitchel and Zharia Cook grabbing four.