MIAMI SHORES, FLA. (WSVN) - The men’s basketball team from Barry University is currently playing a series of exhibition games in Costa Rica against that country’s national team, but playing in different countries isn’t new for many of the South Florida team’s members.
For head coach Butch Estes, the best word to describe his team is “international.”
“I think our team represents our city, Miami, because we’re such a diverse community,” he said, “and in our university. We have a very diverse student body at Barry.”
Nine of the team’s 14 players come from different parts of the world, from Chile and Puerto Rico to Norway, Denmark, England, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I came here by myself, all those things, and I feel like it made me a lot more independent,” said Bosnian player Kenan Guzonjic. “I’ve also been to the war, civil war. After Yugoslavia departed, it kind of affected Bosnia and our economy, and I was just pursuing a better life.”
These players have different reasons for coming to South Florida, but the international language they all know is basketball. Barry has been to the NCAA’s Division II Elite Eight twice in the last three years.
The team’s European members said their style of play works well.
“You can see, like, the way we play — we pass the ball, we don’t dribble too much … everyone is so unselfish,” said Daniel Mortensen, the team’s junior captain, who hails from Denmark.
“We know America is the powerhouse in basketball in the world. We know that, but Europe’s got a lot to offer,” said Evan Walshe, who’s from South England. “There’s so many great European teams and players that come out. You see them all over America.”
The players know their coaching staff is looking for the right fit for this melting pot to work.
“Coaches have a profile when they recruit. The first thing they look for is for the player to be a good guy,” said Serbian player Marko Tomic. “It doesn’t matter if he’s from the same country or a different country.”
But how does Estes find his players?
“It started by just an international player or two through some connections we had, and the kids had good experiences, they graduated and went on to sign professional contacts,” he said. “So they begin to refer us back to scouts and other players.”
The Barry team won’t shy away from competition in or out of the United States. On Oct. 30, they’ll face the University of Miami Hurricanes in an exhibition game in Coral Gables. Last November, Barry beat Alabama’s Auburn University in overtime.
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