Aug. 6, 2013
It's amazing to think that we left Albuquerque on August 2 five days ago, but we've only been in Australia for three days. Also amazing to think that the night ended with a different person running the show for the first time in over six years as the Craig "Noodles" Neal era got its start at 3 a.m. Mountain Time. But before that ever happened, a lot of other things happened first.
The days in Aussie have a very blocky feel to them, in that everything happens in terms of food. After breakfast, we headed to the world famous Bondi Beach, Now, it's winter here in Sydney, and their winter is pretty mild, but it's still jacket weather. It certainly isn't what folks would think of as beach weather. Well, certain folks who play basketball and hail from Australia would not agree.
Sure enough, despite the weather, Hugh, Cam, Alex, and Nick all ended up body surfing (Nick got the hang of it pretty quick). Most of the other guys and the families were happy to just go and stick their feet in and let the waves get them a little bit. The guys that did venture to the beach got a bonus as on the way back up to the bus, we had to go right past a swimsuit catalogue photo shoot. The walk back to the bus might have taken the guys a little longer than on the way down to the water.
Also at the beach our tour guide Michael brought out a cricket set and everyone got a turn to bowl (what we would call pitching) and to bat. The pitching is very different, in that you cannot bend your arms at all, so you sort of windmill it on a bounce. If you swing and miss you are fine, unless the ball hits the wicket, then you are out. You keep batting until a fly ball is caught or a batter is put out. Amazingly, you can hit the ball behind you and that's perfectly legal.
After the beach, the team had to make a quick pit stop over at Royal Albert Hospital, where Cullen is recovering after his successful surgery for his appendix. He is in pain obviously, but I know his spirits were brightened by the visit from his teammates. His first question when the guys came in was "are you ready for tonight?" That pretty much sums up how tough he is.
The team basically had to stay down for the rest of the afternoon until the pregame meal, which we had on the Quay overlooking the harbour. Kevin McCurdy our graduate assistant/manager made a good point...we've had some pretty good scenic views at some of our pregame meals. The Virgin Islands, even Cincinnati had a great view, but Sydney is right up there.
The drive to the game was an hour long trip, and Banktown Basketball Center is nice, but tiny. It seats barely 700. The Pit it isn't. However, the number of Lobo fans there would have made everyone in Albuquerque proud, and that is what makes Lobo fans the greatest.
There were the obvious family members of Hugh and Cam (cousins et al), but then we have Sean, an Aussie who flew to the U.S. last year to watch the Lobos play specifically because of Hugh and Cam, and through the friendship he made with another Lobo fan. He was all decked out in Lobo gear cheering on his team. Another far off Lobo is Nikki Vargas, who wore a "Howl to Speak Australian" shirt. She graduated in 2010 and is getting her doctorate about three hours west of Sydney. She made the drive for the rare shot at seeing the Lobos on her home turf. She more than anyone was happy with the start of the @UNMHoops twitter feed!
Of course the Tom Parr and his wife Krista are here as well, and they are having the time of their lives. They also were in full Lobo gear as well. The show of support was incredible, and when you see that, you hope to put on a good show. That doesn't even count the crazies back in Albuquerque who got up at 3 a.m. to watch the live stream. The crew with the Kings, led by P.R. guru Matt McQuade were amazed at the twitter action from our fans. I can only hope that media members and visitors feel as welcome at The Pit as I felt tonight.
By the way, good show was an understatement. Down eight at the half and 11 in the second half, the Lobos came roaring back to tie the game after three quarters, with each point and basket getting more cheering from the Sydney crowd, who much like Lobo fans, appreciate effort and hustle.
In the fourth, it still went back and forth, but Alex Kirk hit a free throw with 23.7 left for the lead, and Hugh Greenwood's steal and free throw with 3.7 left sealed a thrilling 87-85 win. Afterwards the Kings and Bankstown Basketball Stadium hosted the Lobos for a post-game picnic. It took a little longer to get up there because of the crowds of people wanting pictures with the Lobos, especially Hugh and Cam.
It was 10:22 p.m. when we left the stadium, making for a very long game. However, the Neal era is off an running with a win. A road win. Good to know some things don't change.
Cheers 'mates! UNM Hoops