A man from Bordeaux, France, as if that wasn’t enviable enough, scored 12 points and eight rebounds for favored Gonzaga. A Jamaican man giant had 21 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocks but ended up with the Illinois March sadness. A German player for Michigan, the younger brother of another German player for Michigan who graced the 2018 Final Four, had 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
A Slovak player mastered the flow of the game so much that his coach, the eternal Jim Boeheim from Syracuse, made his way into a thick heel.
The idea of a frenzied basketball tournament played by college students may seem awkward to the rest of the world, but it has become dreamy for the rest of the world as well. Of the 1,051 players on 68 teams who started here, 157 from 49 countries and four unincorporated territories listed hometowns abroad. Ten years ago there were 78 players and 31 countries.
“It’s not getting any slower,” said Brad Underwood, Illinois coach, on Friday, five days after his team’s season ended against Loyola Chicago’s championship. “I see that it just keeps growing. It’s a big part of what we do. Speaking of the team, who has ever heard of a great Jamaican man (Kofi Cockburn) and a Georgian-Austrian great man (Giorgi Bezhanishvili) who worship each other and live together on the plains of Champaign?
Over the years and with increasing scouting, the rich stuff of March Madness has just gotten richer. Judging by the hometowns on the team pages, the Final Four included a foreign player 20 years ago, David Thomas of Canada and the State of Michigan, now Tom Izzo’s director of basketball operations. The last Final Four in 2019 had nine, with Virginia boasting five out of four continents, including both a Francisco (Caffaro from Argentina) and a Francesco (Badocchi from Italy) and four from Texas Tech with the excellent Davide Moretti doubling the Italian Presence.
This year 64 players came from 27 European countries, 40 from 12 African countries with an impressive regional reach, 37 from other parts of North America (seven from unincorporated Caribbean areas) and 14 from Oceania.
Twenty-four Canadian players have performed on the floors or benches here, including Oregon’s Eugene Omoruyi, whose heart contains Canada and Nigeria and whose line went like this while Oregon stamped Iowa: 34 minutes, 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks . “Well Eugene was great man,” said teammate Chris Duarte, who received 23 points, three rebounds and seven assists long after showing the strength to leave his gorgeous Dominican hometown of Puerto Plata. (Many wouldn’t.)
Then Anthony Polite came from the US state of Florida from Lugano near the Italian border. The Redshirt Junior has long since traveled the path of many of these players – through an American high school – and here on Monday he went into the long-standing system of Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton: 22 points (in 8v12 shooting), five rebounds , four templates, four steals, a fourth language.
“Defense first,” he said. “That brought us here.”
So he speaks French, Italian, English and Hamilton.
By 2021 everyone is learning from everyone in all directions, everywhere, perhaps an epitome of the college’s purpose. You have a basketball world that is getting smaller and smaller, so Underwood sees a little global brotherhood of various scouts and chatterboxes that might go, “I know you had a young man from Georgia. Here is another kid that I saw. “He said,” These are the things that happen. “
“Scouting international players is much more thorough,” said UC Santa Barbara coach Joe Pasternack. “You have a lot more information from scouting services that give you the ability to trust.”
He knows. His gauchos led the cosmopolitanism here with seven adventurers from six countries: Guinea, Mali, Croatia, Spain, Switzerland and Canada. Their worldwide collaboration had a great year, they won the Big West, going 22-4 before a 63-62 first-round atrocity against Creighton. “When we took over the program [in 2017] at the University of California at Santa Barbara, “he said,” was part of the plan to recruit internationally. “It works in part because, as Underwood said, the art of perfecting is more revered overseas: other cultures could” practice a hundred times to play 20 games, “he said, where US spring and summer cultures” could practice three times to play 50 “games” and like this: “It’s backwards.”
It’s also brought coast-to-coast buses to excitement that was once unpredictable. It has led Pasternack to an overwhelming respect for his Malian player, Amadou Sow, who moved from zero English to Student Athlete of the Year in Big West upon arriving in ninth grade in Napa, California. “Amadou Sow, and you can put that off, he hasn’t seen his family [except on video] since he came to the US in ninth grade, ”said Pasternack. “I don’t know how many young men can handle not seeing their families since they were 14.”
On Christmas Day, the gauchos had a moment after staff secretly arranged for remote families to record video greetings to all of their players in all of these languages. “It was amazingly special,” said Pasternack, who added his players, “I just think they were all in awe.”
Now, Underwood, an oenophile, can say he received Georgian wine from a player, Bezhanishvili brought some from home. He can marvel at Bezhanishvili training his bike in 10 below zero and not caring about it, or Cockburn (from Kingston, Jamaica, then Queens) raving about his kitchen, or both, and Andre Curbelo of Puerto Rico, the one Football demo in the team gives conference room. “We’re going, ‘Wow,'” said Underwood.
“We did not grow up in a war-torn country,” he said. “We didn’t turn off the running water at 6 o’clock at night. So there is a perspective that is brought to it [the American players] they don’t have that. So it’s very informative. “At 57, he also said of himself,” It’s an area where I have to keep growing. I didn’t know much about Georgia until I recruited Giorgi. “
While it is uncertain how much Boeheim knows about Slovakia, a 2003 Final Four winner with an international player can certainly fight a Slovak player 18 years later. This is Marek Dolezaj, whose masterful line went against West Virginia: 38 minutes, 4v6 shooting, 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block.
“He’s important in every game,” Boeheim began before getting started. “He’s breaking the press for us. He gets it inbounds. He’s the one who does those tough passes there. Somehow he always makes a characteristically bad pass against pressure, which he did when he knocked it out, but that’s okay. We spread our offense. He knows where to go with it. He knows when to drive. He knows when someone will go behind the door. He just sees things better than anyone. He’s just a great basketball player. I mean, it really is. He is one of the most underrated players in the country. To be able to play at 6-10, two hundred nothing pounds. He’s not even 200 I don’t think so, and to play all the games he does for us offense and defense – I mean, he drew two charges. He’s just a great, great team player. He makes sweepstakes that sometimes go unnoticed, but are there. They are there.”
A Slovak gets a long rave from the ultimate Syracusan. How much 2021.