Men’s basketball conducts goodwill tour, charity work in Costa Rica

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Earlier in August, the Tulane men’s basketball team toured Costa Rica, playing in two games and conducting charity work. The team also spent time helping local children in the country by distributing shoes. The tour helped gel the team together, especially as many of the players played their first game for the Olive and Blue in Costa Rica.

The Green Wave flew into the capital, San Jose, on Aug. 6 and played their first game against local side Abogados the next day. Tulane came out 97-61 victors, with Jalen Cook leading the scoring with 24 points, including going 7-10 from three. The tourists also got their first look at transfers Tre’ Williams and Collin Holloway. Williams, an Oregon State transfer, scored 14 points while Holloway, coming in from Georgetown, added 11 points.

On Aug. 9, Tulane played their second game of the tour and won handily 78-49. Holloway led the scoring with 17 points, with Jaylen Forbes tacking on 16 points and Sion James getting 13. These two games gave the Green Wave an opportunity to gel on the court, as well as demonstrate their scoring ability.

However, the most important work the tourists did was not on the court, but the charity work they did within the local community. On Aug. 8, the team participated in the first of two shoe distributions, with more than 700 children receiving new shoes. Two days later, 400 more children received shoes.

Tulane basketball worked with the non-profit Samaritan’s Feet for the distribution. Samaritan’s Feet aims to provide hope, prevent foot-borne illnesses and create educational opportunities for children in need by providing footwear.

The players created lasting memories by providing new shoes, socks and by washing the feet of the children. As well as providing shoes, several members of the team, including Jadan Coleman and Otan Jankovic, played basketball with the kids. Williams made an effort to introduce himself to every child while handing out lollipops. Broad smiles were on everyone’s faces — from the children to the players and coaches — which is something that transcends any language barrier.

The most heartwarming moment came when a kid asked freshman Jake Shapiro for his autograph. Shapiro flipped the question, saying he wanted the kids autograph on his shirt instead. From then on, the children wanted to sign the shirts of the players, a wonderful moment that helped make the kids feel like celebrities.

Head Coach Ron Hunter has long had a connection to Samaritan’s Feet. In 2008, Hunter started his annual tradition of coaching one game barefoot in order to raise awareness and money for the organization. Hunter was the first coach to do this, but he is now joined by over 3,000 coaches in various sports.

“There are always things out there greater than you. Here is an opportunity to help children and it isn’t just about shoes, it’s about hope and what we are able to help kids with,” Hunter said about the distributions in Costa Rica.

Green Wave basketball will scrimmage against Spring Hill College on Nov. 2, before opening their season on Nov. 7 against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Both games will be at the Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse on Tulane’s Uptown Campus.

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