If you thought 40 degrees was cold, imagine what it must feel like to someone from Australia.
On Sunday, 26 young men are about to experience a Chicago winter as they travel from Knox Grammar School in Sydney, Australia to to participate in a basketball tournament and get a taste of the States.
Oswego East’s head basketball coach Jason Buckley was put in contact with the Australia team through Doug Smith, the former athletic director at Naperville North High School.
“He called me up and asked if we wanted to be a part of it again. Of course!” said Buckley.
Back in 2007 a different group of students visited Oswego from Australia, and Buckley said he wanted the new team to have the best experience possible.
Which is why instead of hotels, he found host families for all of the players.
“This will really add to the experience,” he said. “The kids said they really enjoy it and helps make the memories that will last a lifetime.”
Families of OEHS basketball players, sports boosters and staff were contacted and the end result was 13 families; two visitors to each house.
Tricia Marchert, whose husband Joe just recently retired as president of the OEHS sports boosters, jumped at the opportunity to host a few of the Australian basketball players.
“We’ve always been a part of supporting the student athletes here,” she said. “This opportunity will be just as wonderful for them as us. We get to learn about another culture.”
The 26 players vary from freshmen to seniors and will be playing a game every night except Sunday that they’re with the Oswego East families, including a match-up Tuesday night against their host Wolves.
“It’ll be a great time,” said Buckley. “They’ve got some good players. We do too. It’s going to be a great game.”
After Oswego, the team from Australia heads to Naperville, Bennett, and then off to California before heading back home on December 15.
But while they’re here, basketball isn’t going to be the only thing on their plate.
“I think it’s good to give those guys the experience of being here,” said Buckley.
The OEHS varsity basketball team and the host families will be doing a meet-and-greet with their Australian guests on Sunday, before heading out for a few hours of bowling in the morning. For the rest of Sunday it’s up to the hosts to decide the activities.
Marchert will be going over to fellow host Sarah Glende’s house with a few other families on Sunday afternoon to introduce the Australians to an American tailgate party.
“It’s going to be fun since my family are Bears fans and [Sarah’s] are Packers. They’re going to see two polar opposites!” Marchert laughed. “We’ll have a BBQ, chips and they’ll hopefully have a great time.”
On Monday, all the Australians are buddying up with a Wolf and will be attending classes at OEHS.
“They’ll be able to get the full experience of what it is to be a student in the United States,” said Buckley. “Great for both sides and OEHS has been looking forward to the trip and receptive to the students talking about how the school systems differ.”
Tuesday morning will be a trip to Chicago and some of its more famous landmarks with the OEHS match-up in the evening, and then Wednesday the team is off to Naperville.
While the program has never been an “exchange” of sorts, Buckley is working with other schools and the head coach at Naperville to get a “hodge-podge team from all the towns” to go to Australia this summer. “It would be such an opportunity for our students to experience another culture,” said Buckley.
The Wolves host Knox at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the OEHS gymnasium.