Cultural Exchange at NJBA


Hillside, NJ Thursday June 28, 2018

The Patrick School and its newly announced Academy is getting recognition from all over the world. 

A thought in a basketball coach’s mind sparked an around the world trip when Swedish basketball team Lobas, from Lomma, Sweden came to visit NJ and the New Jersey Basketball Academy @ The Patrick School. The team was invited to come to NJ to see how basketball is here by former Mt Olive High School Girls Head Coach Mona Ressassi, who is from Sweden but lives in NJ. The boys, all born 2003-2005 have fundraised for 2 full years and in mid-June it was time to take off across the Atlantic ocean and set foot on American soil – the country of basketball. With connections at the NJ Basketball Academy @ The Patrick School the players and coaches got to do something they never thought could happen: They got to visit to school where Kyrie Irving played! They got to meet Coach Chavannes and get a chance to train under him for a full day. 

NJ Basketball Academy invited the team and the coaches for a cultural exchange day. Student-Athletes from the school came and joined the Lobas players. The morning started with skill works with trainer Delson and Coach Chavannes. After an intense work out they moved to the Kyrie Irving Fitness Center where they worked out with Mr Connor. Mr. Connor also took the opportunity to talk to the players, Swedish and home grown, about time management and what it is to really be a student athlete. 

After an intense morning where the Swedish players really showed that they were there to hang with the Academy players, lunch was served. The players were placed every other one American, every other Swedish. The Swedish players English was impeccable as they start taking English in elementary school in Sweden and are heavily influenced by America and its language. So conversations about how this is done here, and that there were flowing in the cafeteria as the hungry, young men got food to nourish their bodies, re-energize and be ready for the afternoon. The young men all learned something new. For many of the Academy players it was the first time they met someone from Sweden. There were some cultural differences and some things are just the same across the cultures. ‘I was very surprised that they listen to the exact same music we do’ said Samir Thomas, a rising 7th grade Academy student. He continues ‘they only play team ball, don’t play in school. That was surprising too.’ 

After lunch the Swedish players hung out in the Kyrie Irving Locker room as the Academy players got a little bit of extra training in. Then started the real fun. On the floor of the Kyrie Irving Family Court, 16 blond, tall Vikings scrimmaged with the NJ Basketball Academy players. Even though it was friendly games, of course everyone was there to win. The Swedish Coaches saw some differences in the overall game performances. Coach Fredrik Ohlin says: ‘The big difference was the attitude to basketball, the strength, the aggressiveness, and the ability to do all this is a very high tempo. I got the feeling that basketball means everything for these guys and that they work a lot harder to reach their goals. And of course, the competition is harder.’ 

The Swedish players made an impression on the coaches. ‘They gave it their all’ said Coach Chavannes, ‘I was really impressed by how hard they worked. And especially impressed by their footwork in the ladder drills.’ Their American counter players were also impressed. ‘They were all very polite and respectful. And they worked very hard in Delson’s drills’ said Al-Fatir Connor.

As the day wrapped up the players exchanged social media accounts,  pictures and shirts. Loose plans were made about some of the Vikings returning for summer camp next year and a possibility of them hosting the Academy players in Sweden, if the Academy players go over for the big international tournament held in their part of Sweden in January. The day was one that all involved will remember for a long time. Coach Ohlin sums it up ‘We will remember the hospitably! Everyone involved made sure that our boys got a fantastic day. The fact that the boys got to see and experience what it takes to play on the highest level was priceless.’ At the NJ Basketball Academy we are hoping this is just a start of a great relationship.

Chris Chavannes