BOILING SPRINGS — The Gardner-Webb men's basketball program is set to depart for its summer foreign tour and mission trip on Wednesday to Juan Dolio Dominican Republic, a coastal fishing village on the Caribbean Sea with a population of 2,500, and located 31 miles from the capital city of Santo Domingo. Throughout the week, senior Tyrell Nelson (Charlotte, N.C.) and junior Jamaal Robateau (Queensland, New South Wales, Australia) will be providing an inside look at the trip from a student-athlete's perspective.
The trip is Gardner-Webb's second since 2011, when GWU traveled to Nassau, Bahamas, for a series of games. This year's journey, hosted by SCORE International, will allow the team and staff to engage in a host of ministry opportunities and conduct humanitarian relief projects in a region of great need. SCORE (Share Christ Our Redeemer Enterprises) shares its vision to glorify God through missions in obedience to the Great Commission.
Nelson enters his senior season with a chance to rewrite Gardner-Webb's Division I record book - currently ranking third in both scoring (1,239) and rebounding (642) while coming in second in career field goal percentage (57.1 percent). The Charlotte native landed on the Big South All-Conference Team for the first time in his career last season, earning a spot on the second team to go along with his second consecutive nod on the Big South All-Academic Team.
Robateau appeared in 25 games in his first season with the Runnin' Bulldogs, averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds while shooting 68.2 percent from the charity stripe. He put together perhaps his best performance of the year against Liberty on January 27, pouring in a season-high 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting - including a 3-for-4 night from downtown.
Nelson and Robateau will provide alternating daily updates from the trip as the Runnin' Bulldogs embrace new experiences and help spread the love of Christ to a region in deep need of it.
In their own words as they prepare:
This summer we are doing something that each Division I school is given the chance to do only once every four years. Our summer trip is going to be a little different than what many other schools choose to do. In late July, we will be leaving to go to the Dominican Republic to play against some professional teams there. While we are there, however, we will also be serving the people of the Dominican Republic and using our talents and abilities that God has given us as a platform to shine our spiritual light onto those we come across.
Throughout this summer session, we have had multiple meetings as a team in which we would bring a local preacher into the locker room and together we would talk about what to expect as we journey to another country. Mentally we had to prepare our minds as we will experience extreme poverty and a whole new culture. For us we don't see this trip as a chance for a vacation, but instead as an opportunity to help further advance God's kingdom.
I am extremely excited about our team's trip to the Dominican Republic this year. It gives us the opportunity to grow on and off the court. This trip is very beneficial to our program because it gives us a chance to come together as a team and build chemistry. This trip has enabled us to have 10 extra team practices, in addition to weight lifting sessions three to four times per week. The newcomers and the returners have brought a positive mindset and a strong work ethic to our group.
The practices this summer have been great. They have been full of learning, and we have improved on our skills to individually and collectively take us to the next level. All of the extra practices give the newcomers a great opportunity to get a feel for the Division I game. The game is a lot different than high school and junior college as it is more physical, systematic - not to mention a different flow and pace - which can take time to adjust to.
I am extremely excited about this upcoming season and what it will hold for us. The coaches have high expectations for us as we have for ourselves. Having three games before the season starts against professional teams is a great way to build our team's chemistry. It will be great for our coaches to see where we are as a team, and what we need to improve on. Overall, the trip and the extra preparation will help us reach our ultimate goal of getting to the NCAA Tournament.