The Loyola men’s basketball team traveled to France for a 10-day trip Aug. 11 to Aug. 21, playing three professional teams to prepare for its inaugural season in the Atlantic 10 (A-10). The Ramblers encountered a unique culture and spent everyday together, giving them a chance to bond away from Rogers Park on their first-ever trip to France.
Kicking off the trip, Loyola flew to Monaco Aug. 11 to prepare for its first of three matches abroad. Just 30 hours after a 16-hour trip, the Ramblers beat Le Cannet Côte d’Azur Basket — a National Masculine 3 (NM3) professional team — in an 84-78 victory Aug. 13. First-year guard Jalen Quinn, one of the team’s 11 newcomers, scored 17 points to lift Loyola to victory.
Redshirt senior guard Braden Norris said he and a few of his teammates took a trip before the match to Monaco’s world-famous Monte Carlo Casino, enjoying a night out gambling and having fun together. While the Ramblers carved out time to make memories, he said they focused on basketball when the time came.
After the team’s short stay in Monaco, Loyola embarked on a six-hour bus ride to Roanne, France, where it would meet a first division opponent. The Ramblers played much harder competition against Chorale Roanne Basket — a Ligue Nationale de Basket (LNB) Pro A team — falling 80-60 Aug. 17.
Norris, who’s pursuing a master’s in marketing, said the style of play Loyola encountered was different because of the league’s 24-second shot clock — six seconds faster than the NCAA’s 30-second clock.
“Even though it’s only six seconds, it makes a huge difference in the game,” Norris said. “The biggest difference is how physical those guys are, they’re grown men and a lot of them have families and a life outside of basketball.”
Adding more challenges, graduate transfer Jeameril Wilson said the Ramblers’ competition was disciplined and played with higher energy. The forward said encountering tough teams helped the team improve their play, adding that he doesn’t expect to face teams this season better than those in France.
Just three days later in Paris, Loyola fell 94-89 to Fos Provence Basket Aug. 20 — another LNB Pro A Team — in its last game of the trip. Despite the loss, Wilson said playing challenging opponents helped Loyola build chemistry on the court, adding that it’s crucial to communicate defensively before an opponent finds an opening to the basket.
Leading the trip, Head Coach Drew Valentine encouraged his players to focus on developing their skills while also letting them enjoy downtime. Wilson said Valentine reminded him to prioritize basketball first while stressing the importance of rest in between matches.
“He was definitely being a mentor,” Wilson said. “He understood when it was time to decompress. Part of the itinerary was activities to help us decompress, but he was also there as a reminder that the main thing…Is to play basketball and win games.”
Throughout the trip the team dove into French culture, taking food tours and visiting historical sites in Monaco, Lyon and Paris. Wilson said visiting another country helped players like him who had never left America broaden their worldview and admire different walks of life.
Wilson, who’s pursuing a master’s in business data analytics, said the trip sped up his experience bonding with his teammates, adding that he grew close to graduate transfer center Bryce Golden while sharing a room with him.
Norris said the trip allowed players to bond and learn more about each other, adding that the experience helped him grow closer to the team’s newcomers. After transferring from Oakland University his sophomore season, he said found a unique on and off-the-court chemistry at Loyola he hopes more players will enjoy.
As one of the team’s seasoned veterans, Norris said he used time on bus rides and during meals to learn more about his teammates, adding that he will value those moments for the rest of his life.
“I feel like what makes those trips special, just like road trips, are the little things honestly,” Norris said. “When we’re all sitting there and you’re just talking, those can be some of the best memories you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Loyola will start the 2022-2023 season at home when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson University Nov. 7. Tip-off time and broadcast information has yet to be announced.