NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It has been a long week for the SFA men’s basketball program.
Head Coach Kyle Keller attended his weekly press conference and admitted he was still in a mental fog. it is understandable considering the team has traveled over 8,000 miles round trip for two basketball games.
The team was one of eight participants in the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic. It is hard to imagine but an event like this would not have been held in the 1990′s.
In that time period, the Northern Ireland area, including Belfast, was in turmoil with a guerrilla- war taking place between two different groups made up of mainly protestants who wanted Northern Ireland to merge with the United Kingdom and Catholics who were part of a group that wished to have all of Ireland be it’s own independent country.
The conflict was bloody and both sides lost its share of life. Belfast, the epicenter for much of it was left in ruin in many neighborhoods. After 1998, though the two sides started to work towards some kind of peaceful agreement. At the height of the conflict, Belfast was one of the world’s most dangerous cities but now it has become a sign of what peace can do and is a big tourist hot spot with the shipyard that was responsible for the building of the Titanic.
“The stuff that has happened as a kid that I remember on TV watching the news, when you didn’t have cable and you see all these shootings and bombings in Northern Ireland and Belfast was horrible,” Keller said. "Now being able to experience with open season on tourism, the Peace Wall and the cohabitation between the Protestants and Catholics was a remarkable experience. "
The team would go 1-1 in the Classic, losing their first game to San Francisco and winning their second against Milwaukee. The game play improved for the team and Keller believes that could be because of the time together they experienced without the interruption of every day college life at SFA.
“Spending five days in a hotel and on a bus, you are going to get to know somebody and when you get to know somebody you are going to start playing for each other. I thought we played for SFA on Saturday for sure versus playing for yourself. Here you expect to play for championships and when we aren’t playing for a championship, your character shows who you are.”
Away from the court the team was also able to make an impact. The team took part in the “Sport Changes Life Campaign”. it ids a group in Europe that looks to use sports as a way to help children in disadvantaged communities find a path to a future.
“I missed it,” Keller said. “I was at an engagement with the mayor of Belfast. I went back and watched the video we put together from the school trip. It was the highlight of the trip for me. It showed the true character of what our players are and the kids from another country wanting to interact with college american students and us accepting it and being role models. I hope we can continue that here at home with the holidays.”
The team gets a few days of rest and studying before taking on Louisiana Tech on Friday night at 6:30 p.m.