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Spain Summer Tour Central

#TGW: Hasta Pronto  |  3 objectives for Georgia Tech on its trip to Spain  |  #TGW: Coming Together

Georgia Tech took an eight-day summer tour of Spain, where the Yellow Jackets combined a cultural and sightseeing experience with four basketball games against Spanish Basketball Federation teams. The team spent three days in Barcelona and traveled by high-speed train to Madrid, where it spent the final three days. The team returned to Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 16.

Daily coverage of the Yellow Jackets in Spain follows below. The Yellow Jackets won all four games of the tour against teams of players collected from Spain’s professional teams. The games were streamed live on FloSports (for a monthly subscription price of $12.50) – results are below, with links to the streaming broadcast.

Thursday, August 15

Last day in Madrid … after a full day off Thursday, Georgia Tech played sluggishly in the first half of its final game in Spain, but the Yellow Jackets found their energy in the second half and turned a 17-point deficit into a four-point win and finished the tour undefeated.

Read game recap here

The student-athletes and staff were free again to explore the rest of the day and evening, roaming around the nearby streets where there were plenty of excellent restaurants. Many places around the city were closed Thursday to observe the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a Catholic Church feast day on August 15 and a national holiday in Spain.

This is also the time of the summer when the weather is hottest in Spain – temperatures were in the mid-90s during our stay, but not as humid as Atlanta and very pleasant after sunset – and many residents of Madrid take vacation during this time. There are not as many people on streets.

We have all made new friends, enjoyed the Spanish culture and take away great memories. It will be sad to leave Spain, but we are also ready to return home. It will be a very early rise Friday morning to begin the trip back to Atlanta. Departure from the hotel is set for 7:30 a.m. Madrid time and arrival back at campus is expected to be around 5 p.m. Eastern U.S. time. Classes for fall term begin Monday.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The staff decided early in the planning process to keep Wednesday, the day between the two games in Madrid, complete free of organized activity and give the players, and the staff, a chance to be on their own and explore Madrid.

Popular destinations were the hotel pool, the nearby Retiro Park with its lake and boats, bus tours of the city and the Mercado San Miguel in the shopping district.

Meanwhile, Xavier University’s basketball team, who was staying in our hotel and also on tour in Spain, played a game against the Spain All-Stars, who recruited one member of the Tech travel party to play for its team. Assistant director of operations Shawn Valentine, a former player at Rider University, logged four minutes for the Spanish team in a Musketeer victory.

The final game of the tour is Thursday at noon local time, after which the team will again be free for the remainder of the day, then it’s a very early rise to begin the trip back to Atlanta.

Our group is also extremely thankful for our hosts – Megan McMullen, who is on vacation from her regular job as director of donor hospitality and events at the University of Kansas athletics department to work for Complete Sports Management, the company operated by former Tech tennis player Lea Miller that has organized our tour and those of five other teams in Europe right now; Rocio Ruiz, a native of Seville who played college basketball at West Virginia Tech and handles marketing for the Real Betis sports club in her hometown; and Borja Contreras, a Madrid resident who is the technical director for the Basketball Federation of Madrid, and is in attendance at all the games, both for Georgia Tech and Xavier, who is staying in the same hotel. Rocio and Borja are experts on Spanish culture and food and extremely hospitable. They have provided assistance to the Yellow Jackets on everything from the hotel to travel to tourist activities to arranging the game operations, a wonderful team. (you can see a photo of Megan and Rocio with Coach Pastner and his wife Kerri in the photo gallery below).

 

James Banks III paddles a boat on the lake at Retiro Park with freshmen Asanti Price and Coleman Boyd.

After traveling most of Monday and a long evening of touring the Real Madrid facility and a three-hour dinner, Tuesday was a light day for activities beyond the third game of the tour, which the Yellow Jackets won, 102-86.

Read game recap here

Lunch was served at the hotel following the game, and the team and staff had the rest of the afternoon off to explore Madrid. Meals at the Hotel Wellington, a 5-star property, have been excellent, as were the meals at the Casa Fuster in Barcelona and the restaurants the Jackets have visited. Tech visited another tonight a short walk from the hotel, La Giralda IV, where the Jackets celebrated the birthday of Dan Taylor, their player development coach whose parents and cousins have flown in from his native England to join him in Madrid.

Earlier in the day, Taylor, as he does at home, is working with junior forward Moses Wright in the hotel fitness center each day (see a couple of photos in the gallery), and did so following Tuesday’s game as the 6-9 Wright is recovering from an ankle sprain and cannot play. Wright has built himself physically stronger and gained nearly 30 pounds since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2017.

 

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Spain Day 4: 🚆 Train from Barcelona to Madrid ⚽️ Tour @RealMadrid #BuiltDifferent /// #TogetherWeSwarm🐝

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Monday, August 12

The Yellow Jackets rose early for breakfast and their departure from Barcelona following three wonderful days. A high-speed train, called the Renfe, carried the Jackets 387 miles from Barcelona to Madrid at speeds reaching a maximum 300 kilometers per hour, a three-hour ride with views of the beautiful Spanish countryside on a beautiful day.

After checking in to their new hotel in downtown Madrid, the team and staff had a few hours of free time to explore downtown. Tech’s hotel is located a block from Buen Retiro Park (translation is “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”, a 350-acre park at the edge of the city center not unlike Atlanta’s own Piedmont Park. Filled with beautiful sculptures and monuments, galleries, a peaceful lake, and a host to a variety of events, it is one of Madrid’s premier attractions. The park is entirely surrounded by the present-day city.

At 6 p.m., the group left the hotel for Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of the Real Madrid soccer team since 1947. Situated in the middle of downtown Madrid, the stadium seats 88,000 and, like Camp Nou in Barcelona, plans are in the works for a major renovation in the next few years. Real Madrid, the soccer club, was founded in 1902 and was the highest-earning football club in the world in 2018. Domestically, the club has won 64 championships, and another 26 in Europe and worldwide.

Dinner followed at one of Madrid’s most popular establishments, Meson Txistu, and the Jackets enjoyed a Spanish family-style meal in a family atmosphere for the better part of three hours.

Tuesday’s schedule features game 3 of the four-game tour for the Jackets, with tipoff at 12 noon local time. Watch live on FloHoops.com.

The countryside of Spain as viewed from the Renfe train from Barcelona to Madrid

Virtual reality exhibit at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in which guests are seated on a replica bus interior and the windows are video screens giving the guest the experience of riding on the Real Madrid team bus.

Sunday, August 11

Rise and shine! Breakfast at 9:45 a.m., then a bus ride to Camp Nou, the training facility and stadium for FC Barcelona. The team spent approximately two hours there, including a private tour guided by a congenial fellow named Eric who worked for the organization. The tour included the press box and post-game interview areas, a walk in the bench area adjacent to the pitch and plenty of photo opportunities.

Founded in 1899, FC Barcelona is the fourth most valuable sports team in the world, according to Wikipedia, and the second richest football club in terms of revenue. Domestically, Barcelona has won a record 74 trophies, and 20 more European and worldwide titles.

After that, a couple of hours of free time to roam some more, then the pregame meal before heading back to Pavello Joan Busquets for the second game of the tour.

Read game recap here

Saturday, August 10

Georgia Tech won the first of its four games on its tour of Spain, 99-78, at the Pavello Joan Busquets in Barcelona, with four players in double figures.

Read the full game recap here

With the game tipping off at 11 a.m. local time, the Pavello Joan Busquets was not nearly the hotbox the Jackets had experienced at its shootaround in late afternoon Friday. Yet the hot start Tech put forth in the opening quarter (38 points) subsided, and Sunday’s game will tip at 6 p.m.

After the game, it was back to the hotel for a shower, then the team boarded the bus for an afternoon at the beach. It was a perfect afternoon, the beach was crowded and the water was a deep blue. A trip to tour the Mercado de la Boqueria was postponed until Sunday so the student-athlete and staff could spend an extra hour at the beach. The evening was completely free for the team and staff to explore Barcelona for themselves.

Sunday’s activities include a tour of the training facility for FC Barcelona, the soccer club, followed by a tour of the aforementioned market, then a pre-game meal and game 2 at 6 p.m.

One of the ongoing components of this tour is that a special topic class within the Georgia Tech College of Architecture has been arranged whereby the student-athletes will receive one hour credit toward graduation. During the tour, they record their observations, in words and with photos, of the culture and experiences in Spain, and they will report their experiences Monday in a special class session.

Fun fact – Tech’s tour of Spain is the second trip to Europe this summer for junior forward Evan Cole, whose family vacationed in Portugal, Italy and Greece.

Friday, August 9

After an 8-hour, 15-minute overnight flight, Georgia Tech arrived in Barcelona shortly after 8 a.m. local time Friday, but the day was packed with activity designed to shake the Yellow Jackets’ jet lag and prepare them for the first game of the tour on Saturday.

The Jackets checked into the Hotel Casa Fuster, a 5-star property very close to the popular shopping district of Barcelona, ate an early lunch and then boarded their bus to visit the historic Basilica de la Sagrata Familia. Still incomplete, the cornerstone of the basilica was laid 135 years ago and is now on schedule to be completed on the year 2026.

Back to the hotel, the team had a three-hour window to siesta before leaving at 5 p.m. local time for the Pavello Joan Busquets, where Tech will play its first game Saturday morning. The coaching staff put the Jackets through ballhandling and shooting drills, as well as some full-court game situations, to help the team acclimate to the heat – the gym has no air conditioning and outside temperatures will be in the 80s at tipoff Saturday.

Following practice, the team returned to the hotel for a shower and then walked to dinner at Cachitos, a trendy tapas restaurant. Some free time followed before a midnight curfew.

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