Sevenoaks Suns Incredible Boston Experience
The Sevenoaks Suns U14 boys tour to Boston began on a cold and windy day at Gatwick airport, where 10 excited players, Coach Dimitrios and parents Greg and Mike joined BTM Rep Tom to take on the ultimate US experience. The team consisted of Nate, Ben, David, Kai, Lucas, Matthew, Mekhi, Charlie, Jack and Alex, and the boys were incredibly excited as they went through security and got to the departure lounge in preparation to board the Norwegian flight to Boston Logan airport.
After a seven-hour flight across the Atlantic, the Suns landed in Boston where they picked up their bags and headed to the car rental centre. They picked up the Dodge SUV manned by Mike and “Mystery Machine” minibus driven by Tom, which would be used throughout the trip. The Dodge seemed to be the more popular vehicle amongst the boys thanks to its comfy and stylish inside, but some of the boys were happy to brave the “Mystery Machine” too.
After a swift 40-minute journey South to Mansfield, the boys checked-in to their rooms and waited for Tom to pick up the pizzas, on which they feasted before heading to their rooms for a much-needed sleep in prep for a big day on Sunday.
The boys were up bright and early for a delicious selection of hotel breakfast, including scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, fruit and much more. Lucas quickly asserted himself as the king of meal-times, with his eating ability growing in legendary status as the tour progressed.
The first practice would take place at the Foxboro Charter School with Coach Dan Nagle, Head Coach of the King Philip HS Girls program. The boys were buzzing to get on the court and jumped straight into a drive & kick drill with a focus on movement and finishing. Nate and Mekhi responded well with some crisp passing and shooting, while Matthew showed his great work ethic throughout the entire session. The practice continued with some competitive transition elements that the boys really enjoyed, before wrapping up with some shooting.
After showering back at the hotel, the group was driven to Boston and headed straight to Quincy Market for some much-needed lunch. The market offers multiple food options, and some of the boys chose Boston’s famous seafood while others went for choices including Chinese and classic American burgers. After lunch it was a swift visit with the Bill Russell statue and then on to Foot Locker, Champs and a host of other stores where the boys spent some of their savings. Alex was particularly excited with his new rucksack, while Lucas’ purchases included 2 headbands that he would wear during the week to intimidate opponents.
The group then headed to the Conte Forum, a basketball stadium home to the Boston College Eagles who tonight would be taking on North Carolina State in high-major NCAA D1 action. The boys were treated to a nail-biting game, with multiple lead changes and highlight plays from both teams. Ultimately it would be the Eagles that would prevail over the Wolfpack thanks to some clutch defense in the dying minutes. The Suns made their way back to Mansfield where they had a table booked at Jake and Joe’s sports grill and feasted on wings, ribs and more.
Monday morning began back at Foxboro Charter School and a skill development session with Tom, where the focus was offensive footwork and movement. Kai and David showed great perseverance with the concepts that were fairly advanced and potentially new to some of the boys on the team. There was a considerable amount of 1 v 1 played throughout the session and Mekhi showed off a variety of strong moves that led to scores.
After the session the group were driven to “Patriots Place,” the home of the New England Patriots Gillette Stadium and Hall of Fame. They had a brief lunch in the commercial area before heading to the Hall of Fame to learn about what makes the Patriots one of the world’s most successful sports organisations.
The HOF contains legendary jerseys, interactive games & displays and of course Super Bowl winners trophies, of which the Patriots have plenty! Some of the boys purchased American footballs which they threw to each other in the courtyard outside and Charlie displayed his talents as a prospective wide receiver.
That evening it was time for Game 1 of the MPC tournament, which had nineteen 8th grade boys teams entered including local powerhouse programs such as Brockton and Attleboro. The Suns first opponents would be the Westwood Wolverines, who played a pressing-style defense to try and force turnovers and create easy transition baskets. Ben brought great energy for the Suns at both ends, while Kai hit some big 3’s to keep the British boys in contention. However the Wolverines swarming defense led the Suns into multiple turnovers and the Americans came away with a 49-33 win.
The boys returned to the hotel a little worn down but optimistic about the rest of the week’s games, and were greeted with chicken wings, potato wedges and salad which they devoured before heading to bed.
Tuesday began with a trip to the legendary Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team and one of the most famous baseball stadiums in the USA. The boys had the chance to visit the opposition locker room, press box and catch incredible views of the stadium from its various sections. While it didn’t inspire any of the boys to change their career path, it was an excellent opportunity to bask in the rich sporting tradition of the city of Boston.
By this time the boys were very hungry and made their way to local “Tasty Burger,” located just around the corner from the stadium and a spot where many Red Sox fans flock to before and after games. The burgers were excellent and were accompanied by delicious milkshakes, and once finished the boys played a few rounds on the pool table.
That afternoon the Suns suited up in their basketball attire and were driven over to Mass Premier Courts, the multi-court facility where the tournament was taking place. They split into two teams led by Greg and Tom and enjoyed an intense inter-squad scrimmage, which was both fun and highly competitive. Jack ran the floor really well, Matthew dominated around the basket with some strong post-up play and David was a one-man fast-break, lighting up the scoreboard with a barrage of buckets.
Later that evening the team enjoyed a restaurant dinner at the “99,” where the menu featured such dishes as Balsamic Salmon, Sirloin Steak and of course classic Hamburgers. It was a tasty end to a great day in Boston, setting the group up for the next few days which would feature more tournament play.
Wednesday began with a trip to Stoughton to take part in the Dana Barros Camp, run by skill development group Next Level Factory. The Dana Barros facility is a newly built state of the art multi-court and one of the most beautiful training facilities there is. The camps coaches included many former NCAA D1 players who put the boys through their paces in a variety of stations including ball-handling, shooting and passing. Nate impressed the coaches with his mature skill-set, and Alex who is relatively new to the sport really pushed himself in every station.
The camp finale came when Dana Barros, a former NBA All-Star and standout for both Boston College and the Celtics, arrived at camp and gave a motivational speech to all the players. The boys were lucky enough to get a photo with Dana, as well as chat with the various coaches who shared their knowledge and experience. After grabbing some lunch the Suns headed back to the hotel to put their feet up and rest before taking on Game 2 of the MPC tournament.
Tournament opponents this evening would be St. Mary’s, a local team that were a little smaller than the Suns which would hopefully play to the Kent boys advantage. The St. Mary’s team came out firing, knocking down some long-range bombs before the Suns took control of the game with some essential stops and slick offensive play. Lucas and Charlie were dominant inside, Mekhi did a great job of controlling the tempo of the game and Ben attacked the basket aggressively from the perimeter and drew multiple fouls. In the end the Suns pulled away for a convincing 46-24 win and their first victory in the USA!
Celebrations ensued back at the hotel with a hearty dinner followed by celebratory cupcakes, while watching the Duke Blue Devils lose to the NC State team the boys had seen live on Sunday at Boston College.
Thursday began with Coach Dimitrios leading a team practice for the boys which included some work on how to beat a press, something they’d seen a lot of in the past 2 games. The American teams loved to pressure and trap the ball in the full court and it was essential the Suns boys strategised on how to take advantage of it. The practice culminated with some 3 on 3 action, where some of the individual offensive skills learnt throughout the week were put into play.
After a quick shower back at the hotel, the Suns were on the road again as the group headed to the mall for some lunch and a chance to do more shopping. Most of the team opted for pizza before taking the mall by storm, hitting every shop that featured basketball shoes and clothing.
Next on the shopping spree was the Wrentham Outlets, a collection of outlet stores including Nike, Under Armour, Ralph Lauren and many more that are very reasonably priced. By the end of the stint the Dodge and “Mystery Machine” were full of shoes, clothes and other accessories that would be proudly brought home to the UK.
Game 3 of the MPC tournament was against the powerhouse team Attleboro, which featured players that play on “elite” sponsored AAU teams, as well as many strong local ballers. The match-up would be a big test for the Suns boys, who hadn’t seen a team as strong as this in their basketball careers so far.
Attleboro quickly showed their strength, with some very strong guard play on the perimeter and tenacious rebounding at both the defensive and offensive end. They pressed the British boys early on in the game and caused a lot of difficulty for the Suns guards, with lots of steals and transition conversions. Late in the game Nate stepped up and hit a pair of big 3’s, while Lucas battled inside, blocking shots and doing a good job on the boards. The final score was 72-24 to Attleboro in a very important game for the Suns, giving them a tremendous amount to work on for the future.
Their post-game dinner was at Applebees restaurant, where they ate delicious food and spent some quality time socialising with one another, before heading back to the hotel for some rest and recuperation.
On Friday morning the Suns had their final coaching clinic of the tour at MPC with Coach Ryan of Attleboro High School, in which they did some defensive transition and got lots of shooting reps up. Jack brought great hustle and energy in the drills, as did David who brought immense positivity to every practice of the tour.
After the session the boys bundled into the Dodge and “Mystery Machine” to take a trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts and visit Harvard, the world’s most prestigious university. The Harvard trip began with some much-needed lunch at Shake Shack, where the boys took on famous “Shackburgers,” fries and the delicious shakes that the chain is famous for. The group then met student/guide Patrick in Harvard Yard, who led them on a whirlwind tour of campus including the oldest dorm on the site, various statues and the immense library. He also educated the boys on the process of attending university in the USA, something that many of the boys likely aspire to do after their Boston College and Harvard experiences.
The Suns escaped the February chill with a trip to local coffee shop “Darwins,” where they indulged in hot chocolates courtesy of Mike. BTM Rep Tom spoke to the boys about his basketball journey and the essential life lessons learnt from it, and lots of questions and answers ensued. The buzz was building for the evening game, which would see Harvard take on their bitter rivals Princeton in Ivy League action, and the boys headed over to Lavietes Pavilion to take their seat amongst a sold out crowd.
The Princeton line-up featured British freshman Tosan Evbuomwan, a GB international who played his domestic basketball at Newcastle Eagles, and the game was an incredible display of skill, tactics and hustle as both teams played their hearts out to come out on the victorious side of the Ivy League rivalry. At half-time the Suns boys stole the show as they went on court to play a game of knockout, in which Mekhi triumphed and won a Harvard towel. The second half offered much of the same level of play and intensity, as Princeton’s small lead was whittled down by Harvard, before the home team sealed the deal with some clutch scores and stops, much to the delight of the roaring student section.
A very satisfied group of boys finished their final evening in Boston with restaurant dining and some down time, in preparation for a morning scrimmage and a return to the UK.
The final day of the tour began with the boys last chance to take on the hotel’s delicious buffet breakfast, before heading to the Dana Barros Club to scrimmage against the program’s 7th grade AAU team. The boys were visibly very tired but determined to give a great final effort on the court.
The game was close throughout, as both teams were very evenly matched and were determined to come away with a win. The Dana Barros Gladiators were led by a slick point guard who was a master of using the ball screen, and the Suns boys struggled to keep him from getting open looks on the perimeter. Meanwhile at the other end Kai was making some big plays to keep the Brits in contention, while Matthew attacked the basket ferociously and used his power to find his way to the rim. The Gladiators had a small lead late in the game, but a clutch bucket by the Suns drew it level and a big defensive stop forced overtime. However in overtime it wasn’t to be for the English boys, as the Gladiators dug deep and came away with a 38-35 victory.
Despite their disappointment with the loss, the boys were all in great spirits as they returned to Mansfield to get a final lunch and pack their bags in preparation for their return to the UK. A few of the boys were taken to the outlets to buy last-minute gifts for family, before boys and bags were loaded into the Dodge and “Mystery Machine” for the drive back to Boston Logan airport and the flight home to London Gatwick.
It was an absolute pleasure hosting the Sevenoaks Suns U14 Boys in Boston, who showed bundles of energy, positivity, effort and resilience throughout the trip, and big thanks to Greg, Mike and Coach Dimitrios for their support throughout. We very much look forward to taking the Suns on another tour of a lifetime in the future.