Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Charlotte teams make most of trip to France

Two Charlotte boys and girls basketball teams recently came home with championships at a tournament in Limoges, France.

The basketball experience, however, might have been the least of what the high school kids got out of the trip.

“Going over there, the experience, the culture, was incredible,” said Trent Walker of the Charlotte Cougars, who went 5-0 in April’s Limoges Partner Cities Basketball Tournament. The Cougars girls team also won all five of its game to win the title.

“And you don’t realize how much history is over there. We knew about Paris (the Eiffel Tower was probably the coolest), but going to the smaller towns like Limoges and seeing the churches and how much history there is was just unreal.”

Limoges, located about 230 miles south of Paris, is a sister city of Charlotte. Organized by the Charlotte International Cabinet, the Cougars teams weren’t selected only for their basketball skills, although they included Observer All-Mecklenburg selections such as Butler’s Cierra Burdick and Charlotte Christian’s Anthony Gill.

To be considered for the team, players from public and private schools had to be nominated by their schools and have a grade point average of at least 3.5.

“We wanted players with good academic standing,” said Charlotte Christian’s Shonn Brown, who coached the boys team. “We knew they’d be motivated to make the most of the trip.”

The trip -- backed by the Charlotte International Cabinet -- cost $90,000. The players raised about $10,000 (they were each responsible for $500) and a raffle which included autographed basketballs by Charlotte Bobcats coaches Larry Brown, Phil Ford and Dave Hanners brought in $25,000. The rest came through private donations and sponsorships.

Both teams cruised through the tournament, easily winning most of their games against teams from France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and the Czech Republic.

“Ultimately, we were probably at a level a little above everybody else,” said Brown. “We had more size, speed and quickness. We were further advanced.”
Walker won’t soon forget the trip, nor will he be able to. He’s staying in touch with several new friends he made in Limoges, mostly on Facebook. -- David Scott

Charlotte Cougars

Andrew Alexander (Ardrey Kell), Reggie Arceneaux (Olympic), Zach Ferguson (Butler), Anthony Stitt (Butler), Ryan Potocnik (Charlotte Christian), Trent Walker (Charlotte Christian), Anthony Gill (Charlotte Christian), Worth Smith (Charlotte Christian), Matthew Ward (East Mecklenburg), Jaye Hunt (East Mecklenburg). Coaches: Shonn Brown (Charlotte Christian), Jason Grube (East Mecklenburg), James Fisher Davis (Charlotte Christian). Athletic director: Larry Baucom.

Christelle Shembo (Ardrey Kell), Essence Baucom (Berry), Alicia Quinn (Berry), Cierra Burdick (Butler), Ali Lane (Charlotte Catholic), Jaymee Fisher-Davis (East Mecklenburg), Sandra Knox (East Mecklenburg), Olivia Parker (Harding), Kourtney Hailey (Independence), Mason Jeffries (Myers Park), Tiffany Mitchell (Providence Day). Coaches: Natalie Vuoriaho-Davis (Independence), Andrew VunCannon (East Mecklenburg).