Laval Lucas-Perry of the University of Michigan men's basketball team recently returned from the 2008 Jones Cup in Taiwan, where he helped Athletes in Action to a 7-2 record and a silver medal. AIA recorded a 6-1 mark during pool play and defeated Qatar, 97-90, in the semifinals before falling in overtime in the gold-medal game to Jordan, 93-91.
The Jones Cup team is one of several AIA-sponsored teams that travel the globe, participating in sport while also spreading their faith. In addition to playing basketball, Lucas-Perry and his teammates spent time visiting with children at churches and orphanages in Taiwan, using basketball as a means to share their faith with Taiwanese youths.
Lucas-Perry played in all nine games for AIA, averaging 9.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. In the final game of pool play against Chinese Taipei, Lucas-Perry scored a tournament-best 22 points, leading AIA to a 102-86 victory.
Lucas-Perry transferred from the University of Arizona to Michigan following the 2007 fall semester. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he was able to practice with the Wolverines in the 2008 winter semester. He will be eligible to play for U-M after the conclusion of the 2008 fall semester.
Upon returning from Taiwan, Lucas-Perry shared some of his experiences from the 2008 Jones Cup with MGoBlue.com
On finding out about the Jones Cup... "Zack Gibson first told me about it and Coach (John) Beilein suggested that I go over there and get some experience on the court because, with my transfer, I haven't been able to play much. So after Zack suggested it and Coach Beilein encouraged me to use it to get some experience, it was a great opportunity for me."
On what Zack Gibson said about his Jones Cup experience... "He (Zack) told me that it was going to be a great experience C physically, mentally and socially. We went over there to do more than just play basketball; we went over to help kids. It was refreshing, making a difference in people's lives, and that's what Zack told me, that making a difference would be the best."
On the preparation before leaving for Taiwan... "We had training camp for a week, in Xenia, Ohio, and the first thing we did was go through an obstacle course, testing ourselves and bonding as a team. We had four practices to get a feel for our teammates. The team had players from West Virginia, North Dakota, Xavier, UMKC and Colorado State. It was fun, trying to mesh our talents and create team chemistry, getting used to each other and scrimmaging with each other."
On the off-court experience... "We tried to come into our mental being, trying to figure out where we were religiously by helping people at the orphanage, helping people at the many churches we went to. It was a great experience. Helping little kids, telling them about the word of God, that is something greater than any of us, something greater to hopefully help people and make a difference it the lives of others. We ate with the kids, we talked about our lives C our basketball lives, our family lives and our social lives C and we played some basketball with them. We just tried to make them feel at home because it is difficult for those kids, not having a mom or dad. I don't know what that is like but I know, from looking in those kids faces, that it was a difference maker for them."
On the knowledge about basketball in Taiwan... "I know one thing; they know who Michael Jordan and LeBron James are because they were wearing their shoes and their gear. They are really big on basketball; they seemed to have a love for the game. The fans showed a lot of support, after the game they came up to us and for 30-40 minutes we would be signing autographs."
On being back on the court... "Not being on the floor hurts me a lot. I know that I can be a big contributor to this Michigan team, being a floor leader and a point guard. Just being back on the floor was good, even though I didn't play the point as much as I would've liked to over there. I was a defensive player out there, making plays, trying to make a difference both offensively and defensively."
On the competition... "We played against international professional teams. These were experienced players, so being the youngest guy on our team, and one of the youngest guys in the whole tournament, it was a lot of pressure trying to do the best I could out there. It was great competition, all the teams showed a lot of desire and strength. We were the smallest team out there, but I think we played with the biggest hearts."
On adjusting to the international-style game... "We were the away team for all these games. It was a different mindset, you had to bring your 'A' game and be ready to play every day. Playing with the wider defensive key was a little different. For the first four games were struggled to adjust, but after that we came out ready to play, we had more desire and more experience and had got used to the way the international game is called."
On gaining experience through the Jones Cup... "Being invited to this team was good. It gave me more game experience, game situations. Playing difficult games, going into overtime, you can't buy that kind of experience. It was great to get out there and play and to win."
On the performance of the team... "All of our guys played well, we played well within the context of our abilities. We rebounded well, we played with desire and that helped us win some games. Our coaches did a great job of teaching us about strength, love and compassion for the game. We all wanted to win, but second place was very good, we can live with that. It was a good accomplishment."
On his performance individually... "I did a lot of different things on the floor, I scored, I stopped a lot of people and I played against the best offensive player every game. Offensively I did a good job shooting the ball, driving to the basket, making plays, getting to the line and helping the team win."
On the lessons learned from the experience... "The experience of playing overseas, playing with stronger players, more experienced players, taught me to be a little more patient sometimes. It taught me to bring the ball down, look at what you have on the court and utilize your strengths, and those of your teammates, and bring out the weaknesses of your opponent. Off the court, being in Taiwan was a whole different experience. Their lifestyle is different; it was a new experience being in a third-world country. Learning about new cultures, new religions and being socially active was a big difference for me."
Lucas-Perry Helps AIA to Silver at Jones Cup (July 19, 2008)