The Long Beach State women’s basketball team is trying to raise enough money for a trip to England next August. They’re also trying to raise enough money to bring Ella Clark home.
The 49ers hosted a Pyramid Party in the Walter Pyramid in October, where silent auction prizes, such as dinner with players or coaches, were sold to raise money.
Many of the players and coaches spoke to attendees about the upcoming year and their much appreciated support at the first of many fundraising events that the team will host to raise the $70,000 needed to touch down in Ella’s backyard.
“I’m excited if we do get to go there,” junior guard Hallie Meneses said. “Going on a foreign trip to London would be amazing, not only because most of us have never been there, but just to be exposed to foreign players, a different style of play and overall being in a different atmosphere that doesn’t belong to us.”
Although Meneses said she has traveled before — she flew to the Philippines when she was eight years old — she’s in the minority. Many players on the team have never traveled outside the United States.
photo credit: Todd Johnson
“For some of them, they haven’t even gotten passports [and] they’ve never been out of the country,” Clark said. “You could probably say it’d be life changing for them. It’s going to be a great experience and especially to experience international basketball. Some of them want to play overseas, so it’ll give them their first taste of that.”
The tour would allow the 49ers to play elite international teams within a 10-day span, while giving those players interested in basketball after college the opportunity to get a feel of what life would be like in that type of environment, Wynn said.
Despite the increased number of out-of-state players this year, coach Wynn and her staff have made it a point to give every player on their roster the chance to play in front of their home crowd or somewhere close to their hometown.
“Ella [Clark] is the only returner on the team that would not have experienced playing in front of her friends and family,” Wynn said.
The news that the 49ers would try to visit London was revealed during a summer team meeting prior to Clark’s most recent departure to Britain. While there, Clark trained and joined the Great Britain Senior National Team; if the team qualifies for the 2016 Summer Olympics, she’ll be in Rio in three years.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wynn said. “To be able to say that we’re true to our word, in the sense that we always recruit and that if you come from far away, we’ll go and play in front of your friends and family and bring Long Beach to you.”
Wynn also said that given NCAA rules that European tours are allowed just once every four years, this will be the first and last time these team members will have such an opportunity.
“Some of us only have one year left, and some of us have four,” Meneses said. “To bring that away with us, and for me to tell my future kids one day that I went to London … I know all of my teammates want to be able to say that.”
For Clark, it’s not the traveling that’s important to her, but the ability to bring two major parts of her life together and share something with her team that few international athletes can say they have.
“It’d be amazing [to go home], especially to go with my team,” Clark said. “It would be a different experience for them to see how I live. I’ve been around here for four years, and I’ve seen how they live. To give them my perspective on things and the different culture and stuff, the experience would be great for them.”