Eckerd College completed one of its most successful men's basketball seasons in school history in March. The Tritons were 25-7, which tied for second-most wins ever. They won the Sunshine State Conference regular-season and tournament championship.
Eckerd earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division II South Region tournament, but the season came to an abrupt end with a first-round loss to Union (Tenn.) University. Usually, there would be a banquet, some farewell speeches and one final picture before the players go their separate ways for the summer.
But the season isn't officially over yet.
Thanks to a program called Spring into Summer, all 16 members of Eckerd's basketball team, along with head coach Tom Ryan, will travel to Spain for two weeks starting May 23. While abroad, the Tritons will play three exhibition games: one in Barcelona, one in Toledo and one in Avila. They will also tour historical sites in the country.
"Never been overseas, know very few words in Spanish," guard Brad Reibel said. "But I think it's an absolutely great trip for us. I'm a senior, so this is a great way to finish my final year. We had a very good season, which makes it even better. If we were a .500 team or didn't have a winning record, I think there would be less excitement."
To prepare for the trip, the basketball team took a fall semester class with professor Yanira Angulo-Cano. Every Wednesday night from 6:30-9:30, the team learned about Spanish culture and the role sports play in the identity of the country. Angulo-Cano, who will accompany the team and supervise the cultural tours, also taught the team a few key phrases in Spanish.
She said she has made several educational trips to Spain with other groups from the college. She believes the basketball team is as prepared as possible for what they will experience in Spain.
"We talked about the history and culinary traditions," said Angulo-Cano, who has taught at the college for eight years. "I also gave them a crash course in Spanish on how to order a meal, as well as the meal-time traditions. They have lunch from 2-4 p.m., which is different from the rest of Europe. And then dinner starts at 10 p.m. It's hard to find a restaurant open before 10 p.m."
Angulo-Cano believes the most exciting part of the tour will be the 2,000-year-old Segovia aqueducts. There will be an optional trip to a bullfight.
"That will be up to the individual," Angulo-Cano said. "We understand that some people would be very opposed to attending such an event, even for the cultural value."
Ryan, who has not been on an overseas trip with his teams prior to this year, said the original plan was to take the tour last year. But he deferred to this year and the women's team went abroad instead. There were also a few more games scheduled, but Ryan limited the exhibitions to three games. They will play against professional club teams.
"Originally we were going to play more games but that's not really what we wanted," Ryan said. "It's more about learning the culture and touring the country and bonding with the team. We have six seniors who are going and it's a great chance for them to do one last thing with the team. It's a great way to end a very good season."
Former Seminole standout Marco Behori completed his freshman year at Eckerd. He is one of the few players who has been to Spain; his father has family that lives there, and he visited with his parents when he was young.
He said he will try to see them during the visit.
"When I first found out we were making this trip I was very excited," Behori said. "Just to have the opportunity to see a place like that, and to be with my team, is very exciting."