George Mason University

News at Mason

For Mason's men's basketball team, it's not such a small world, after all

September 6, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

When Goanar Mar, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward on George Mason University’s men’s basketball team, was asked what he remembers most about the Patriots’ preseason trip to Spain, his answer had nothing to do with layups, blocked shots or slam dunks.

Instead, Mar talked about cultural education.

“The biggest takeaway is to be more open to different cultures and different ways of doing things,” he said. “Just being open-minded that other people do different things, and nothing is wrong or right.”

Mason played plenty of basketball in Spain, winning two of three games against all-star club teams. But the nine-day excursion to Madrid, Toledo, Valencia and Barcelona was also a mind-broadening adventure of new places and histories.

So, while downtime included a day at the beach, there were also tours in Madrid of the Palacio Real (the official palace of Spain’s king) and the Plaza Mayor. The team visited a sword-making business in Toledo, toured Valencia’s Cultural Center and traveled to the Sagrada Familia, Olympic Stadium area, La Barceloneta neighborhood and Gothic Quarter in Barcelona.

“The church was incredible,” 6-foot-7 junior forward Jarred Reuter said of the Sagrada Familia, a large unfinished Catholic church and a UNESCO World Heritage site designed by Antoni Gaudí. “That’s what I like about travel: seeing the different ways people live.”

“This is experiential learning,” Mason Coach Dave Paulsen said. “One of the things we sell to prospective students is that Mason is a global university and one of the most diverse places in the world, so we have been able to bring our guys to that reality and enhance their education.”

But let’s not forget about the basketball.

The trip, paid for with revenue generated by the basketball program and Patriot Club donations, gave Mason’s team—with three freshmen and Reuter, a transfer from Virginia—a chance to mesh a bit on the court. That was helped by 10 out-of-season practices allowed by the NCAA as a tune-up for the trip.

“This is experiential learning. One of the things we sell to prospective students is that Mason is a global university and one of the most diverse places in the world, so we have been able to bring our guys to that reality and enhance their education.”

Mason Coach Dave Paulsen

The biggest challenge in Spain was playing in two gyms without air conditioning on days when outside temperatures topped 100 degrees. That led Paulsen to limit his players to two- and three-minute stints on the court in those games before rotating in substitutions.

Players said the adverse conditions helped them bond, and Reuter pointed out how players “connected” and did not always socialize with the same group during the trip, a good sign cliques weren’t forming. Paulsen said he was encouraged by the continuous banter he heard around dinner tables.

“The biggest aspect was them getting closer, having those shared experiences,” Paulsen said. “You’ve got to be healthy, you’ve got to get good breaks. But if we stay connected, and guys don’t have their own agendas, we’ve got a chance to be good.”

With a cultural experience they won’t soon forget.

"Seeing a whole new area like that definitely put things in perspective for us,” Mar said. “There’s a whole other world out there. It was good for us to see.”

Photos courtesy of Mark LaFrance and Bill Rohland.