The Ohio State women's basketball team will be touring Brazil this August and this blog will chronicle the experience from start to finish. Follow along here on OhioStateBuckeyes.com as well as all of the team's social media accounts: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and search the hashtag #BucksInBrazil on Twitter and Instagram.
August 16 - Obrigado Brazil
What a trip. We landed back in the States this morning after a long flight but we're all still talking about how great the trip was. When we got to Atlanta, it was overcast and we thought this was the first time since we left that we haven't seen a beautiful sunrise. There was no rain in the 10 days we were in Brazil and the weather could not have been more comfortable.
Saturday was our last day and everyone used it for some relaxation on the beach. Some just grabbed a chair, a towel and laid in the sand. Some played volleyball, others went paddle boarding and some took the time to grab a few last minute souvenirs. No one took more advantage of the beach time this trip than Makayla. If we had a spare few minutes, she was catching some sun somewhere.
Eventually, we'll have a full trip recap with thoughts from the players and coaches. But right now, we're just going to try get back to reality which won't be easy. Thanks for following along with our trip. We were glad we could share it with you.
August 14 - Christ The Redeemer
Another stunning day filled with amazing views of Rio de Janiero. Chances are you have heard of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. It's one of the most popular tourist spots in the entire world. But if you haven't been there, it's just hard to depict how gorgeous the views of Rio are. The statue was built in 1931 on top of Corcovada Hill largely due in part to at the time, Rio was almost 80 percent catholic. It stands almost 3,400 feet above sea level. We opted for the tram route of getting to the top. The other options were by van or by foot. At the end of this long week, the foot route wasn't really an option.
Once on top and after we all caught our breath, it was time to fight the other tourists for the best positions to take photos/selfies. People were lying on the ground, hanging over the edge and doing anything they could to get the best view. It was truly a group event. As you can see from the pictures we took (Full Gallery), we weren't only in our photos. There are folks from all over the world, that whether they wanted it or not, have Ohio State women's basketball team members in their photos. There wasn't a lot of room and there were a lot of people. And we came through in the "down" time because remember, it's the middle of their winter. Our guide Marcos said lines get up to four hours long in 100 degree weather in January just to get herded at the top.
While on top, a couple of the players spotted a familiar face. Ohio State professor Angela Thatcher was vacationing with her boyfriend and just happened to be up top at the same time. She taught Asia, Alexa and Makayla in Rural Sociology 1500 this past year. Buckeye Nation is truly everywhere.
After the statue, a group of us headed to The American School of Rio. Vitor, one of our tour guides for the week, is the head basketball coach at the school. He invited us to come out for lunch, a tour of the school and a chance to interact with some of his players. The school is great. Cut right into the side of a hill, it offers some great views of the city. I know I would have a hard time concentrating in third period math class if I stared out the window at the ocean.
We played a couple of games with the kids on the court and then Kelsey and Coach Mitchell put on a little workout. Cait and Caitlyn used that time to join in the girls' soccer practice otuside. They both had fun but got a bit more of a workout than they had expected. Many of the kids at The American School are Americans whose parents have moved to Rio for work. Some of them are Brazilians who know English or know that they will be moving to the States at some point. Overall, the visit was awesome.
Tonight we are headed to dinner right on Copacabana Beach at Vitor's favorite restaurant. He said he saved this place for our last night because we would NOT be disappointed. We're then all headed out to do some dancing and take in some of the Brazilian night life.
August 13 - Instituto Mangueira do Futuro
Today we had our third and final exhibition game at the Instituto Mangueira do Futuro. We had the majority of our day to ourselves before heading out for a brief clinic followed by the game. Everyone got a little rest and relaxation prior to the game.
Mangueira is an established "favela" which is an under-privileged community in the North Zone of Rio. The Instituto Mangueira do Futuro was the first sports complex in a fevala community in the city. It's a safe place for kids from the community to play sports and also learn life lessons through classes that will not only prepare them to live in the community but also to get jobs. Many athletes from Mangueira have competed in the Pan American games for Brazil and the community has had at least one representative in the last couple of Olympic Games.
We were given a brief tour by the complex's director Samuel who showed us the different sport venues. Kelsey and Makayla played a little soccer with some of the kids while Coach Klein and Doctor Grant put on a display of athleticism that was second to none on the pitch.
The main basketball gym was built under the existing subway tracks. With the land so close to the complex, Samuel said they decided to claim the land and build another gym for fear of the area being taken over the slum housing.
The clinic with members of the club's younger players went well. They were very appreciative of us coming and showing them some moves. Many of them stayed around to watch the exhibition game. We were warned about the noise from the passing subway cars and as our time there went on, we got used to it. I think it kind of added to the atmosphere which was great. We get spoiled a bit playing in such a nice arena like the Schottenstein Center that when we play in a cool little venue like today, it makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
August 12 - Exploring the City
Another day has passed here in Rio and we have still yet to see a cloud. The weather has just been perfect. Temperatures in the low 80s, no humidity and a slight ocean breeze. Keep in mind, this is the middle of their winter.
This morning, we split into teams and embarked on a scavenger hunt on and around Copacabana Beach. Our game leader Nick, who flew in from London to help us run the game, was extremely helpful in getting us started and organizing the results. Each team was given an iPad that led them to certain points along the beach. Once there, teams had to answer questions, take a photo or video of your team doing a certain task or take a photo of a certain landmark. It was a great way to learn about the city and it got the competitive juices going. Some teams ran the entire way from point to point. Other smarter teams solicited the help of a taxi cab. Everyone had a great time.
We then had the afternoon free and many of us went to the beach. Lying in the sun was a perfect way to relax after running around this morning. As for the ocean, it was fierce today. The waves were between 12-15 feet. And remember when I said it was the middle of the winter? Well the water temperature was around 60 degrees. That didn't stop some of us from heading in and having a little fun being thrown around in the waves.
After dinner at the hotel, we went to Maracana Stadium for a soccer match between hometown Flamengo and Atletico PR. Maracana Stadium was the site of the World Cup final last year and will be the site of the Opening Ceremonies for next year's Olympic Games. The stadium currently seats around 50,000 fans. While there were only 20,000 fans there tonight, the atmosphere was still great and Flamengo came out on top 3-2.
We thought we were out of the traffic when we left Sao Paulo but we got another taste of it tonight. Rush hour traffic leaving the South Zone of the city along with traffic headed to the match all had to flow into the North Zone through one tunnel. The 8.5 mile trek took two hours to complete on the way there and just 18 minutes on the way back. I hope that improves before the Olympics next year.
August 11 - Sugar Loaf
It was hard to take enough pictures (Gallery Link) today on our trip to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The 360-degree views of downtown Rio, the Bay of Guanabara and Copacabana Beach were stunning. I think we could have spent the entire day up there taking photos and just hanging out. Our tour guide Marcos let us take a number of photos but he had to prod us along after a while.
Sugarloaf Mountain is right on the point where the South Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of Guanabara. It got its name because it's shaped like the instrument used to make what is called sugar loaf. It's what's formed of the sugar cane after the juice is extracted and dried. It's hard to accurately put into words how beautiful it was up there. You can try and get a sense for yourself but you'll have to come down some day and see for yourself. I also think you'll see many of these shots again next August when the Olympics are in town. NBC will have an abundance of options for their "beauty shots."
After leaving the mountain, many of the players bought a Peteca which is used in the Indian game Tupi. It's basically a weighted ball with feathers attached that you hit into the air with your hand. Very simple game but sometimes, those are the most fun. Remember blowing up a balloon and hitting it into the air when you were a kid and trying to not let it hit the ground? Same concept.
Lunch was at a very nice Brazilian barbeque place in the heart of Ipanema, which is around the corner from Copacabana Beach. We then had the rest of the day free. Some stayed in Ipanema and went shopping. Others went to the beach and some rented bikes and rode around the city. Dinner tonight is on own as well and many have their spots already picked out.
August 10 - Welcome to Rio
We made it to Rio de Janiero! Another beautiful city. When we left Sao Paulo this morning, we weren't quite sure how soon we were going to see Rio. What normally takes 30 minutes in light traffic from hotel to airport took just over two hours this morning in gridlock traffic. One of our guides was telling us that Sao Paulo tried to institute a traffic law where if your license plate ended in an even number, you could only drive on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and if it ended in an odd number you only could drive on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It didn't seem to go to well.
The biggest takeaways from Sao Paulo were the vast size of the city and the traffic that came with that vast size. There were lots and lots of roads but it seemed like they had very few "highways" or "interstates" like we have in the states. Maybe because driving 70 miles per hour with that many cars on the road would be asking for disaster.
The other really big thing we saw in Sao Paulo was the vast amount of graffiti art. It was literally everywhere. It ranged from very well done to not so well done. It was even present in the affluent areas. It added a lot of character to the city.
As for Rio, it looks awesome. We are staying right on Copacabana Beach which is gorgeous and the La Fiorentina restaurant that we went to for lunch was spectacular. Great start to our week here. Dinner is on our own tonight and we'll have a little time to explore the city. It's going to be a fun week.
August 9 - Sao Bernardo do Campo
Sunday was a light day and it was needed after the game Saturday night. Everyone was tired and needed some time to rest. We ate breakfast and then had some down time until pregame meal at 1 p.m. That led into an exhibition game against Sao Bernardo.
It was a bit of an interesting ride to the game as we had to pick up a mother and daughter on the way to help show us the best route to get to the gym. They were thankful because they were looking for something to do. We then bid farewell to our bus driver Messias, who maneuvered the bus in and out of traffic like a pro the last three days. He was great.
For the second straight night, we had a pretty good crowd come out for the game. They were so appreciative of us coming and really enjoyed the interaction with the team after the game. We did our best to make it out of the gym each night as the kids were asking the players for everything from their shirts to their shoes and even mouth guards. They just wanted something from Ohio State that they could show off to their friends. I guess the selfies will have to do.
We finished the night with a trip to the mall to walk around and have dinner at The Outback.
Monday we head for Rio de Janiero. Everyone is excited for the next leg of our trip.
Another beautiful day in Sao Paulo. We were told the Brazilians are a lot the Americans in that they love their music and dancing. So we headed to a park to join a group and learn some Brazilian dances. The instructor was great and everyone jumped right in. After a few songs, the players asked if they could teach the Brazilians a few American dances. They then proceeded to do the Whip and Nae Nae, The Wobble and The Cupid Shuffle. I'm pretty sure the Brazilians had just as much fun learning our dances as we did learning theirs. You can see in the couple of the pictures (click the image on the right) that Kianna was pulled up on stage at one point during the Brazilian dances to show her moves and then Alexa took the lead in showing off the Whip and Nae Nae. One lady learned quick and jumped on stage with our group.
We then headed to Prefeitura de Santo Andre to play their women's team in an exhibition game. Before the game, we gave a clinic for over 140 kids teaching them the basics of the game. As you can see from the photos, the players had a great time.
The exhibition that followed was great as well. It served as a good jumping off point for not only the rest of this trip but for the fall as well.
Dinner was at a great pizzeria called San Marcos. Wonderful pizza that really hit the spot.
Tomorrow, we have free time in the morning and another exhibition game in the early evening.
August 7 -- Day 1 In The Books
We made it to Brazil. Everyone is a little tired but most were rejuvenated after a warm shower this morning when we got to our hotel. Some slept well on the overnight flight and others not at all. But that didn't stop us from touring Sao Paulo this afternoon.
Our tour guides, Sally, Cesar and Vitor led us into Sao Paulo where we visited the Ohio State Brazil Gateway, which is led by director and 2010 Ohio state graduate Luke Barbara. Called the Ohio State Embassy of Brazil, the Gateway has four main goals for connecting Ohio State in the country - Student, Research, Alumni and Partnership.
Luke explained that the Gateway has setup internship, job and study abroad opportunities for Ohio State students and has also worked on getting Brazilian students into Ohio State. He also described how the Gateway has numerous research opportunities between Ohio State and Brazil, including one with Nationwide Children's Hospital and a local hospital in São Paulo.
With over 500,000 living alumni, Ohio State has one of the largest alumni bases in the world Brazil has opened many doors for OSU alums through the Gateway. One of those connections is with the University of São Paulo which is one of the most prestigious institutions in the country.
Another treat this afternoon was hearing from Rio native Atila Noronha who is currently the COO of Outback Brazil. Atila made the Brazilian national volleyball team as a 14 year old and played in three Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in 1984 in Los Angeles. He then went on to earn a Masters Degree from Princeton and a PhD from MIT. His stories about his own experiences and stories of former teammates and how am education helped shape heir lives after volleyball were invaluable. He eventually became the Regional Vice President for McDonalds and lived in Columbus for 12 years. That is when he developed his love for Ohio State.
Atila also gave us a brief history of how Rio became the city it is today and learned of his connection with our two local tour guides Cesar and Vitor. He competed on the same national team as Cesar 34 years ago and he also knew Vitor's father, who was a world champion basketball player in Brazil in the 1960s. Small world.
After a great visit with Luke and Atila, we had lunch/dinner/way too much to eat at a local Fogo de Chao. A statehouse with as much meat as you wanted or could handle. That left everyone with a full stomach so we decided to walk it off around Iberapuera Park in downtown São Paulo.
A full day after a short night's rest left one tired group. With clinics and games each of the next two days, everyone retired to the hotel for some rest.
First day takeaways: lots of small cars, lots of traffic, lots of crazy people on mopeds and a really cool city.
August 5 - Final Prep
Wednesday marked the final practice before the trip. This was the third practice this week and all week, we spent time putting in the concepts that will make up the offense and defense we will deploy on the trip. The practices have been good but at this point, everyone is in high anticipation of the trip.
We will have a little lunch in the locker room on Thursday before heading to the airport. The first leg of the trip takes us to Atlanta and then the nearly 10 hour flight from Atlanta to Sao Paulo, Brazil. We should be in the Brazil sometime Friday morning. #BucksInBrazil
August 1 - Almost time
We had another great week of preparation for our trip. The coaches were out on the road recruiting the first half of the week and once they got back, we had three solid days of practice.
Thursday was a good day for everyone to get back in the gym and get going again. The coaches had been on the road and the players have so many things going on this summer. During the year, it's easy for everyone to get in a routine of classes and practice. The summer is different. It's a bit lighter on classes but the players are getting other experiences in the Columbus area. Some are working with leadership programs, others are working with the NCAA and others are doing various internships. The routine of practice doesn't come easy for either the players or coaches so a day like Thursday was good in which they worked on individual drills to get back into basketball mode.
Friday was a great practice in front of our fans on the main court. We had a couple of fun shooting contests to get the competitive juices going and worked a little on some of our offensive sets. But the best part came at the end when the players and coaches got to interact with the fans. Seeing so many fans show up on a Friday night in July to watch us practice was special. We have some of the best and most enthusiastic fans and I think their eagerness for the season to start almost rivals that of the players.
Saturday's practice was a little more of the nuts and bolts. Working on more of our base offensive and defensive sets and getting in "game mode." We have just three more practices next week and then it's off to Brazil on Thursday!!
In case you missed the photo gallery from Friday night, click on the photos below.
A lot of personality was on display this afternoon as the players took part in the team intro video. It will run prior to the Buckeyes' starting lineup each home game. It should be a really cool video as the theme this year is "I put on for my city" as the team is embracing Columbus.
Check out the photo gallery below for some photos from the shoot.
This week was a short week on the court but a busy week off it. Monday was a workout day. The players worked out in the weight room with strength coach Brian Unverferth and also got some conditioning. Some players even got a little "extra" conditioning. If the conditioning wasn't enough of a bonding exercise for the day, the team went to dinner at Champs afterwards.
Tuesday was the only on-court practice of the week. The team practiced for about an hour and a half, continuing to build the foundation for both the offense and the defense. The returning players are getting back into form and the new ones are starting to get a grasp of the concepts.
Team Rehab, as they called themselves last season, is still in full effect. The group of Chelsea Mitchell, Makayla Waterman, Kalpana Beach and Kianna Holland has been joined this fall by transfer Sierra Calhoun. This sounds daunting but everyone is working extremely hard and is on schedule to return for the start of practice in the fall. Coach McGuff said last week that there is no need to rush them back on the court for this trip and risk another injury. But he does expect them to be full-go come October. Sierra is nursing a minor injury and with her redshirting this season due to transfer rules, they are allowing her to get back to 100 percent before resuming practice. The only thing this group is struggling with at the moment is being held back. All of them want to get out on the court RIGHT NOW but they are asked to be patient, which is not easy for young athletes.
The rest of the week, the coaches will be out on the road for the second half of the July evaluation period. So Wednesday will consist of more lifting and a couple of team meetings. The first is with a financial advisor and the second will be with Academic Counselor Ciera Gillison. Thursday, the team will meet with Associate Director of Compliance Carly Grimshaw to make sure everyone in on the same page with some of the new rules and that all of their paperwork is filled out.
Friday will then be a bit of a fun day. The players are getting together in the afternoon with the video group and will be filming the team's intro video which will run before the starting lineups this season. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for snippets of the filming on Friday.
July 17 - Week 1 In The Books
The first week of work is complete as the team practiced three times. It was really good to see so many players on the floor. At times last year, we only had seven players dressed which looked odd. The freshman, Theresa and Kaylan along with transfer Sierra Calhoun, have also done well with fitting in and figuring out the practice system.
Thursday also offered the media an opportunity to talk with coach and the players about the trip and the start of practice. Coach McGuff, Cait Craft and Kelsey Mitchell offered their excitement for what lies ahead. Check out the video below.
July 14 - The Preparation Begins
Preparations for the trip began with the first of 10 practices allowed under NCAA rules. The team practiced for just under two hours and worked on installing the groundwork for the season.
Prior to the practice, the team met with Sallie Gordon from Sport Tours International. Sallie will be with us on the trip and she went through the itinerary and some tips for the trip.
Remember, if you want to come out and see a practice, we are hosting an open practice on July 31 at the Schottenstein Center.