INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Conor Riordan, of the Simpson men's basketball team, is traveling through Brazil to play with the USA D-3 National Select Basketball Team. Riordan is one of 10 student-athletes from around the country chosen to play for this team.
Riordan is coming off a superb season for the Storm, in which he was named to the American Rivers All-Conference First Team for the second straight year. In addition to his accolades on the court, the rising senior landed on the Google Cloud Academic All-America Team, the first Simpson men's basketball player to receive the honor since 2010.
The Ankeny, Iowa native will be in Brazil from July 8-17 and will compete in four basketball games in two different cities and will gain outreach opportunities in the cities they visit. Riordan will chronicle his experience in the blog below.
Day One — July 9
We arrived in Brazil at about 6 a.m. this morning after an eight and a half hour flight from Orlando, where we had our team orientation. It was only 50 degrees when we landed, due to it being winter here in Brazil. We also had our first practice today, which was held at the Jundiai Club. It definitely was not Cowles Fieldhouse, but the most unique gym I have been in. It was only 60 degrees in the gym and every noise echoed, so it got very loud and hard to hear. We practiced for two hours and got up and down, even with everyone running on little sleep. I'm excited to play with this team as there is an immense amount of talent on the floor and I am looking forward to this experience.
Day Two — July 10
Day two was a good one. We got to sleep in a bit after a long day of travel. We did some team building trivia over Brazil and Portuguese language so that was educational. (The bonus round in trivia was on United States capitals and I got them all, so shout-out to Tyler Stumbo).
We had our first game today against a professional club from Campinas. We won 85-65 behind a very balanced team effort. We got up early and stayed up throughout the game. The game was a lot more physical and the refs really let you play.
At dinner, we met former Brazilian Olympic basketball player Maury Ponikwar de Souza, who played on the 1988 and 1992 Olympic team. He got to play against the "Dream Team" and has also won five club championships here in Brazil.
Looking forward to game number two and more experiences tomorrow!
Day Three — July 11
Today was a fun day. Everybody on the team is really connecting with each other. We went to the local mall today in Jundiaí. It's funny because people stare at us wherever we go. We were going around all the stores using google translate trying to talk to employees and bargain for deals.
We then took a three-hour bus ride to our game. We were supposed to have Subway before the game, but we did not get our sandwiches until 30 minutes before tipoff (Coach Stromer would have been fuming we did not eat four hours before). We played a pro team from Araquara who is in a top-tier league in Brazil. We were down after the first quarter, but turned up the defensive intensity and won 76-53. It was cool getting to see everybody's competitive spirit come out and we are really playing well together.
We got to spend some time with local kids after the game. I gave away a Simpson shirt to a young boy and his face absolutely lit up. Honestly one of the cooler moments I've experienced just knowing he looks up to us and wanted to play like us.
Headed to Rio tomorrow for the second portion of our trip!
Day Four — July 12
Nothing too major today as we had an off day from hoops. We had an early wake up call to fly into Rio de Janeiro. Flying in over the city was quite the sight. We are staying right on Copacabana Beach. If you remember the 2016 Summer Olympics, this is where they held all the sand volleyball matches. There are vendors all over the place on the beach and they all flocked to us being American. It honestly reminds me a lot of Las Vegas. We spent most of the day on the beach and in the ocean. The waves were huge and we got out pretty far in the ocean to body surf (no bouys holding us back, Adam).
That was pretty much it for today. It was also my birthday today so I got to take some time to thank all my friends, family and coaches who have supported me and put me in a position to be able to spend my 22nd birthday on Copacabana Beach in Rio. Seriously couldn ot be here nor would want to be here without you all in my corner. I'm thankful for the people I've met on this trip who made it a special one and cannot wait to get after for game number three tomorrow.
Day Five — July 13
Today we got to explore a little bit more of Rio de Janeiro in the morning. We experienced what McDonald's is like over here and it is pretty much the same thing. The food has honestly not been very different than what we have in the U.S. It's been a lot of steak, chicken, fruit and eggs.
We then had our third and least competitive game of the trip. We played a club called BasQuete Cruzada. They are not professional and are more of a developmental club. They have some young players who have a bright future. We won 126 to 54. We were disappointed to not have a competitive game, but it was still nice to go up and down, and work on things to get better as a team.
We got to spend time with local kids after the game again. I talked to a young 12-year-old boy who was actually born in Canada, but has lived here for a while. He said he plays and it is his dream to play in the U.S. someday so he had all sorts of questions about what the game is like here. I gave him a Simpson shirt, so I started the recruiting process a little early Coach B.
Day Six — July 14
Today was a day to rest and gear up for our final game on Monday, which is supposed to be our toughest game. We went on an excursion to Sugarloaf Mountain which is a famous sight. We took a couple of trolleys to get up the mountain and this led to an amazing view. You could look out and see the whole city of Rio de Janeiro. We also saw some monkeys on the mountain, and they have no fear as we were within touching distance of them.
We then went and experienced some more Brazilian culture when we went to the center of Rio where they have a farmers market. There was a lot of unique pieces of art being sold there.
We had the rest of the day to spend on the beach as a team. We got shown up in soccer by some locals and we also got a game of sand volleyball in. It wasn't really fair because the team with our 7-foot center won. Overall, it was a relaxing Sunday in Rio and was cool to experience some of the biggest sites the city has to offer.
Day Seven — July 15
Today was a full day of activities. We got up in the morning to go see Christ the Redeemer. It's one of the seven man-made wonders of the world and I can see why. We took about a 20-minute train ride up a mountain to get to the top, where it sits. You could look out and see all of Rio de Janeiro, but I was more impressed with how enormous the statue was. To think people had to get all the material for the statue up the mountain and build it on the peak, just seems absurd.
We then had our final game of the trip. We played against an athletic club called Fluminese. They presented us with our biggest challenge. The game was extremely physical and competitive. We were up by six at half, then at the end of the third quarter we put on a run that carried over to the fourth. We ended up winning 91-68.
Finishing the trip 4-0 is a great feeling knowing we represented Division III, our schools and our country by playing the right way. We have one last day in Rio tomorrow, then it's time to head back home.
Final Day Wrap-up
Sorry for no post yesterday, we were traveling back to the states all day. Our last day in Rio de Janeiro wasn't anything too major. We explored the downtown area and some art districts. We were supposed to run a basketball clinic in an impoverished neighborhood, but it got called off. It was also raining all day.
Overall, this was an amazing experience. Wearing USA across my chest is something I'm still trying to put in perspective. It was a total honor repping this country. I loved getting to meet nine other great men and players from across the country and share this experience with. It will be fun to keep in touch with them. Basketball has given me countless opportunities and put me around the best people in my life, so I owe a lot to this game.
With that being said, I'm very excited to be back and am looking forward to a special year at Simpson with my coaches and teammates.
Thank you all for sharing this experience with me and to Zach for reaching out to me to blog my trip! Also special thanks to my sister and dad for accompanying on this trip and my family and friends back home for all of their support.