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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Summer European tour strengthen A&M on, off the court

Basketball
PROVIDED
Basketball

While the Texas A&M football team presently commands the attention of Aggieland, the men’s basketball team is poised for what is one of its most highly anticipated seasons in the program’s recent history.

The Aggies return both of their leading scorers from a year ago — seniors Jalen Jones and Danuel House. The team also boasts one of the nation’s top incoming freshmen recruiting classes with four players inside the 2015 ESPN Top-100 prospect rankings and three inside the Top-35. 

To facilitate the development of team camaraderie, the Aggies ventured overseas to Europe recently with stops across Italy and Athens, Greece, where they played four exhibition matches versus foreign club teams.

“It was a great team trip, overall,” Jones said. “Great team bonding trip. We got to know everybody a little bit better.”

Although basketball was on the itinerary, the trip’s clear value resided in the opportunities it offered for new and old teammates to relax and get to know each other. For freshman center Elijah Thomas, this meant engaging in good-natured fun at the expense of teammates, tourists and citizens.

“When we got off the boat to go tour around the island, me and Admon [Gilder] bought the water guns,” Thomas said. “At first, we started squirting our teammates, but then we were like, ‘Ok, we’re never going to come back here,’ so we started running around, squirting random people, and like, this butcher, he like yelled at us. He was like, ‘Hey, get back here,’ so we took off running. That was the funniest part.”

The connection between Thomas and Gilder actually dates back to before their college days as the two developed a strong bond growing up together near Dallas. Thomas said he’s been best friends with Gilder since second grade, and the two have competed ever since. 

Thomas and Gilder represent half of what is the self-dubbed “Fab Four,” a title that plays on the nickname given to the University of Michigan’s basketball recruiting Class of 1991 which highlighted future NBA stars Juwan Howard, Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. Thomas and Gilder are joined at Texas A&M by center Tyler Davis and small forward D.J. Hogg to make up the rest of the Aggie quartet.

A disappointing opening game in Rome, Italy, in which the Nigerian National team routed A&M by a score of 79-47, tested their composure relatively early on the trip.

Fortunately, a steady backbone of seasoned veterans, including Jones — who experienced falling just short of an NCAA tournament appearance a year ago — will be able to aid their transition into the college game.

“You just tell them to take it one day at a time,” Jones said. “Sometimes when they get too tense in the game, I just tell them, ‘Hey, relax, this is basketball, man, you’ve been playing this your whole life. Just go out there and do what you been doing for a very long time.’”

Following their initial defeat, the Aggies tapped off three consecutive victories, making them 3-1 on the trip. This included a 71-69 buzzer beating thriller over Serbian-based Mega Leks in Athens, Greece. Moreover, a member of the “Fab Four” either led, or co-led, the team in scoring in each game. Overall, Thomas said the experience shaped a good mindset for him and his teammates.

“I think it was overall a great experience,” Thomas said. “We worked hard before we left to go there. It was a vacation, but we just told ourselves we were going to push and we were going to try to win these games, to show everybody that this is a different program. This is a different team this year. It’s all about ‘We.’ Expecting championships is our biggest thing.”

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