Did you know basketball is the third most popular sport in the world with 2.2 billion fans following soccer (3.5 billion) and cricket (2.5 billion)? That’s according to a report last year by sportsbrowser.net, an online sports portal.
The NBA now has 120 players from 40 countries in its ranks, and there are hundreds of international players at the college level, about one or two per team on average. But the College of Charleston men’s basketball team has five student-athletes this season from overseas – its largest foreign contingent in history: Ante Brzovic of Zagreb, Croatia; Babacar Faye of Saly, Senegal; Evan Kilminster of Newcastle, Australia; Charles Lampten of Douala, Cameroon; and Reyne Smith of Ulverstone, Australia.
This quintet of players have been a big part of the team’s success this season, which included winning its first Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic in November, a 20-game winning streak that included cracking the AP Top 25 in January for the first time in 20 years and finishing the regular season on Feb. 25, 2023, with a nation-leading 28 wins. Their 16-2 record in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) also gave them a share of the of the conference title and earned them the No. 2 seed at the CAA Championship, which gets underway Friday, March 3, in Washington, D.C. (the Cougars first game is on Sunday, March 5, 2023, at 6 p.m.).
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The College Today caught up with four of the international team members (Faye wasn’t available to participate) to ask about their best memory from the season, what they miss about home and if they’ve ever tried boiled peanuts.
Best memory from the season so far?
Brzovic, a junior major in political science: “There have been plenty of great moments, but beating Virginia Tech to win the Charleston Classic was my biggest memory of this season. That was the first time the whole team played in front of a sold-out crowd. It was electric, just unbelievable. It’s why we play.”
Kilminster, a freshman with an undecided major: “I agree, beating Virginia Tech. It was so cool to be a part of that and seeing Pat [Robinson] make the shot with three seconds left. It just got the whole crowd excited.”
Lampten, a senior majoring in communication: “Beating UNC Wilmington on their floor [71-69 on Jan. 11, 2023]. That was just like an electric moment just because of our rivalry. A ton of people came from Charleston, so it felt like a home game. The atmosphere was crazy. It was a very close game – every second was just magical.”
Smith, a sophomore majoring in business administration: “Going on a 20-game winning streak and cracking the top 25: I think that was a huge reward for the hard work we’ve been doing all season, and just kind of the excitement from the city and everyone in the community.”
What do you like best about being a Cougar?
Brzovic: “Just the fact that we had a very successful year, being ranked in the top 25, great coaching staff, amazing teammates. I’m far away from home but they helped me feel like this is my home now. It’s just amazing to be a part of this organization and be as successful as we are so far. I’m really enjoying it.”
Kilminster: “I’d say just the whole team spirit. We have a great group of guys around us. I don’t feel like I’m missing home too much. And also, how much the coaches love us.”
Lampten: “My favorite thing about being a Cougar is just the love we get from the city. That’s something I’ll always cherish. Last year, we had a pretty average record, but we still had a good crowd, and this year, it’s even better. The crowds are so loud.”
Smith: “Just the support from the city, the school and of everyone in the athletics department – it makes it so much more enjoyable, especially being so far from home. It’s like you just feel like you belong here.”
What do you miss most about home?
Brzovic: “I miss my family and my hometown mostly. I just love Zagreb. It’s always going have a special place in my heart. I promised myself that wherever I go for work, I’m always going to come back home. That will be my final address one day. But right now, this is my home, and I really love it.”
Kilminster: “My friends and family. I haven’t seen them for a while. I miss the beaches there, which are very nice. I know there are beaches here, but I miss going to my local beach.”
Lampten: “I’ve been in the U.S. since I was 16 – I hope to be a U.S. citizen in about a year and a half. But I miss my family, obviously. I haven’t seen them in six years, but I also definitely miss the food. We eat a lot of legumes, fish and rice. But it’s just the way it’s prepared that you can’t get here. There’s just something so good about African food that I miss.”
Smith: “My family and friends. They’re a big part of my life, and like, Evan, I miss the Australian beaches. There’s just something about them. I also miss being around other Australians. They’re just so positive and laid back. I just miss the vibe back home.”
Have you tried boiled peanuts yet?
Brzovic: “Yes, I love southern food. It’s very similar to what we eat back home.”
Kilminster: “No, no.”
Lampten: “Yes, love them. We have them in Cameroon. They’re so good.”
Smith: “I have. They were not good. I’m not a big fan of grits either.”