After a one-year COVID delay, the Hillsdale College men’s basketball team visited Greece for 10 days. They went 3 – 0 in their games to keep the program undefeated in overseas play.
The NCAA allows the program to make one such trip every four years. Though it was one year late, head coach John Tharp said the trip was the perfect mix of work and relaxation for the team.
“We looked at it as, a third of it is experiencing the culture and the sites, a third of it was the basketball part of it, and then the other third was a couple days relaxing on the beach,” Tharp said.
It marked the second trip to Greece for senior forward Peter Kalthoff, who took a trip there during his senior year at the Hillsdale Academy.
“I think if anything, I enjoyed it more, it was a little bit more relaxed, because in high school they were holding your hand every step of the way,” Kalthoff said. “It was amazing.”
Despite winning all three of the games that they played while in Greece, the team had to get used to playing with European rules. A smaller ball, a shorter shot-clock, and more physicality, the team said, created a learning curve which they had to get over.
“It took some getting used to, my team and I are used to college refs here, obviously they have a little bit different of a view of what hands on means or what an illegal screen is,” Kalthoff said. “You’re gonna get bad calls here, and we got bad calls there, yeah, they were different rules so it was frustrating, but we like to think of it as just a little bit of adversity, a little twist to help us get ready for our season here.”
Senior guard Jacob Ngobi agreed that the change in play style wasn’t necessarily for the worse.
“Over here, it’s not really the same except in high school and AAU basketball, the style of play that it was; it was fast paced, which was really good, it’s kind of like watching Luka Doncic and guys like that throwing one-handed passes,” Ngobi said. “But as a whole, it was still basketball, it’d be ten minutes into the first quarter and we’d be like, oh, it’s just basketball, let’s do what we do, keep playing how we play, and we’ll be successful.”
In addition to the games they played, the team was also able to sightsee and experience the history of Greece, including a trip to the Acropolis in Athens.
“It was surprising how much I’d forgotten, but it was a great refresher seeing those historical sights, it was all great things and we made a lot of great memories,” Kalthoff said
As for Tharp, seeing his athletes recognize the beauty of each of their destinations made the trip worth it.
“It’s hard for words to describe when you’re with your team and you’re talking about being in the place where democracy started, all those things that these guys have been talking about since they’ve been here at Hillsdale, to see some of those things up close was pretty special,” Tharp said.
The special experiences for the team, however, weren’t limited to just those on the court. During the trip, Associate head coach Keven Bradley proposed to his longtime girlfriend before one of the team dinners.
“We went back to our rooms to get ready for dinner and we had a little bit of a moment and I got the opportunity to propose, and the rest is history,” Bradley said. “We told the team at dinner, and we have such great kids, such great guys, they were incredibly supportive and were really excited for both of us so that made it even more special.”