Belmont men’s basketball team returned from London and Dublin with a strengthened chemistry from once in a lifetime experiences and a boosted confidence from three good performances on the court.
“Coach Byrd really likes for us to have the experience more than all about playing games,” said senior Craig Bradshaw.
Touring Parliament, witnessing the Changing of the Guard and experiencing the Churchill War Rooms are a few of the unique experiences the team bonded over.
“I’ve been here four years. My freshman year we had one of the best teams that I’ve ever been on – best team chemistry. This year it blows that out of the water,” said senior Bradshaw.
“I think it did wonders for us going over there and getting to hangout everyday with each other and not having any distractions.”
The Bruins outscored their opponents 332-167. Although Head Coach Rick Byrd said the competition improved with each game, “none of them were Division I caliber.”
Players said the value of the shared experienced outweigh the benefits of extra time on the court.
“I don’t think the games will make us better in the long run. It’s nice to be on the court with them, but just spending time with people in that scene; it’s crazy how much that can affect your team and the relationships,” said senior Jeff Laidig.
The team demonstrated its internal support at the London Eye by helping Bradshaw overcome his fear of heights.
“All my teammates came around me and were like ‘It’s ok dude, we’re going to get through it,’ and it ended up being a really sick experience. And it was just great to have them there to encourage me to do something I’ve never done before,” said Bradshaw.
Members of the team believe improved relationships off the court can lead to better performance come game time.
“It’s a good sign when you have a whole bunch of guys who like one another on your team, and that leads to unselfish play on the floor,” said Byrd. “We have a good, strong, unselfish attitude on this team from top to bottom.”
Both Coach Byrd and the seniors said the trip was arguably most significant for the newcomers.
Redshirt sophomore Austin Luke played some last season, but this trip gave him an early opportunity to step up and replace the role Reece Chamberlain occupied in previous seasons, said Byrd.
“The trip was huge, not only because I got to play the three games, but more importantly the practices that led up to it gave me an extra jump start that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t had the trip,” Luke said.
The trip was even more important for Luke because it was his first chance to play with the team since breaking his foot in June.
“It helped me get back to where I needed to be, and now I feel as good as I ever have,” said Luke.
Seniors Bradshaw and Laidig kicked off their last season in a Belmont uniform on a high note.
“It’s the last year, so it’s kind of more about experiencing it with my best friends and people that I’m going to be friends with for the rest of my life. I love playing basketball, but it’s kind of secondary to the relationship you make on and off the court with people that you love,” said Bradshaw.
Laidig shared Bradshaw’s feelings.
“Some of the stuff we did over there is just unforgettable,” said Laidig. “The trip really helped our team. I think it’s going to really pay off.”
By: Grant Robinson