Day 9 was set to be one of the most fun days of the entire tour, which speaks volumes as the tour so far had been amazing!

We travelled in the morning to Six Flags Hurricane Harbour, a huge water park in Arlington, Texas home to a wave pool, a mini-surfing area, “lazy river” and a ton of huge slides. It was cloudy when we arrived but the sun soon came out in full force, and the boys made sure they were wearing plenty of sun cream.

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After bowing out of the GASO tournament, we wanted to give the boys an opportunity to watch the final few games that showcased some of the tournament’s star performers. Before heading over to Duncanville we treated the boys to a classic American-style breakfast, where they ordered such dishes as “chicken n’ waffles,” pancakes and bacon & eggs. Wesley Moore took over the Russell Hoops Instagram account, while Stanley Howard took over Tom Ward’s South Coast Elite Instagram, which became somewhat of a friendly rivalry for who could post the most exciting media (I think RH has a slight lead at the moment). 

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Day 7 was an ultimatum for our boys – if we win we stay in the tournament and if we lose it would all be over. Knowing this, there was a serious atmosphere amongst the group in the morning as they ate their breakfast and prepared themselves for the game ahead.

We stopped off at Costco on the way to Duncanville to pick up some lunch and then headed to Desoto High School where our first playoff game would take place. Desoto has an incredibly rich tradition of basketball success, winning the state championship last season with their star player Marques Bolden heading to Duke. As with every place we’d played so far, the facilities were immaculate and so superior to anything we have back home.

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We gave the boys a little extra chance to sleep in on the second day of the tournament after their evening win on the previous day, as they had two important games ahead of them which would establish what position they would be in heading into the playoffs. They tucked into breakfast and made up some packed lunches for in between games later in the afternoon, and then hooped into the “Russell Hoops wagon” for an hour drive to Duncanville Fieldhouse. 

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Day 5 of the tour was what the boys had all been waiting for – the start of the Great American Shootout, one of the highest level AAU tournaments in the USA and a chance for the Russell Hoops players to prove themselves on the big stage. There are very few opportunities for UK players to play at such a high level and this tournament offered them exposure to college coaches, elite American competition and a chance to grow and develop as a player like nothing on offer back home. 

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After an intense first 3 days of the tour, we wanted the boys to relax a little on Day 4 in preparation for 3 more days of intense tournament basketball. After a little extra sleep and a good breakfast, we headed off to the campus of Southern Methodist University, an NCAA D1 college that is ranked as one of the nicest campuses in the USA.

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On Day 3 we continued our tournament preparation with a shooting practice and two scrimmages in the evening versus local AAU teams who will also be competing in the GASO tournament.

Ben and I were up at 5.30 am for our morning workout, this time joined by Robin and Wes, who were keen to put some extra time into their strength and conditioning. Upon returning the boys all rose and ate their breakfasts and got themselves ready to take on practice.

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Day 2 was a day of intense basketball, with a chance for the boys to train together and start developing some chemistry on the court as well as off of it.

Ben and I started the day with an optional “early bird” workout at 5.45 am – the boys were all exhausted from their long journey and the time difference but Wes and James managed to hoist themselves out of bed to work on their strength and conditioning. However, on our return,  we found all but two boys had left anyway to get some shots up at the local court – DEDICATION!

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There was some pretty clear excitement on the faces of the players as they arrived at Heathrow Airport for Day 1 of the Russell Hoops Tour to Dallas, as well as on the parents faces with the prospect of 10 days of relaxation ahead of them! The excitement hit tour member Stanley Howard harder than expected as he arrived at the airport without a passport – nevertheless through some heroics from his father and family friend it arrived at the airport in time for him to join his teammates through check-in. 

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Our 4th Edition of the Mini Basket Tournament concluded with Seven teams competing for the the championship at Chauncy School.

We had two hotly contested groups with two games having to go to a golden basket to decide results.

After all group games were played, we went into final position fixtures with St John the Baptist coming out in 1st place. A thrilling final with just one basket being the difference between them and St Joseph 2.

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