When Ryan Anderson was being recruited to play basketball at Boston College two years ago, one of coach Steve Donahue’s selling points stuck out.
Donahue told Anderson about his vision for reshaping the program and how he saw Anderson fitting in, but he also had an idea for what was essentially a basketball study-abroad program.
Donahue told Anderson he planned to take the team on a trip to face some of the top teams in Europe. The Eagles would bond on the court, and learn off of it.
“Those type of experiences, not many people get to have,” Anderson said. “So that’s definitely intriguing when a coach tells you two years from now you’ll be playing basketball against professionals in Spain. That’s pretty sweet.”
Anderson had friends in college programs that had done the same thing, so he reached out to them.
One was Stanford guard Anthony Brown, who played high school ball at Oceanview in Fountain Valley, Calif., not far from Anderson in Lakewood, Calif.
Brown told him about the trip to Spain the Cardinal took last year, and about how much more physical the game was.
“He said they got really smacked out there,” Anderson said.
But it was worth it.
With 10 underclassmen, Stanford won 26 games last season. The Cardinal reached the postseason for the first time in three years, capturing the NIT title.
“Their team learned a lot, and it showed,” Anderson said.
The Eagles were in a similar spot last year, with nine freshmen. Eight return this season, plus four more newcomers, and before another season full of challenges, they will travel to Spain this weekend to play four games over 10 days.
“It’s immeasurable how much it’s going to help us,” Anderson said. “The fact that you can get full practices in August and then get full games in August. No other schools can get that unless you’re going on these trips.”
Donahue also expects the trip to benefit his team.
“It’s another chance to give these guys a life experience that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said. “Get to a place in the world they may never get to and intertwine that with your group working together during the summer when there’s not a lot of pressure around.”
The NCAA allows programs to leave the country on such a trip once every four years. Donahue first went with Penn as an assistant, and this will be his fifth trip overall.
“Guys talk about that trip more than anything in their college experience, and that’s why we’re doing it,” Donahue said. “I just think it’s a great experience.”
The Eagles will play a pair of Spain’s top teams, CB Estudiantes and Regal Barcelona. Donahue said he has taken a team overseas and lost by 40. And Villanova absorbed a 50-point beating last year.
“We’re going to have our hands full a couple games,” Donahue said. “It’s going to be the physicality and the speed and the age and experience.”