Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
While most Murray State students were spending their first week back to school getting acclimated to their classes, senior point guard Jonathan Stark was honing his skillset in the heart of Spain.
Stark first learned of the unique international opportunity when Head Coach Matt McMahon approached him about a chance to compete in seven days of competition and travel led by Southeast Missouri State’s Assistant Coach Chris Moore.
The seven day trip consisted of stops in Barcelona and Madrid playing for Global Sports Academy, a team comprised of various American collegiate talent like West Virginia University point guard James Bolden, Wake Forest University forward Richard Washington and Northern Kentucky University forward Drew McDonald.
While there, Stark and his teammates faced off against several Spanish teams, garnering an undefeated record during their four-game circuit. But for Stark, just being on the court again was enough cause for celebration.
“Just to be out on the court was a good feeling,” Stark said. “I enjoyed myself and had fun, especially when you’re winning, it’s always fun.”
Stark said he noticed considerable differences between the American and European game, claiming that the European style is increasingly more passing and shooting reliant, with players of all sizes and positions expected to be adept in the skillset. While his team inevitably won all four of their games, Stark admitted that originally it was a challenge to adjust to the contrasting European style of play.
“I remember the first game we played, we got like 15 travels called on us,” Stark said. “You have to put the ball down before you take any steps at all, so we had a lot of fast breaks that were stopped by travels.”
Since the Racers’ season ended in March, Stark has made it his focus to improve his individual game, placing an increased emphasis on developing a consistent threat in the paint as well as on the defensive end.
“I’m still working to get better, but I’ve been focusing on trying to get better finishing in the paint and the mid-range area, and just trying to become a better defensive player and help the team on the defensive end,” Stark said.
But aside from the progression Stark has strived to make on the court, he said the trip also served to open his eyes to the diverse culture and lifestyles that awaits off the court.
“It was amazing,” Stark said. “The food there is a lot different, I can tell why we’re a little obese. I wasn’t used to the meats and stuff, and the time change really got me. I didn’t sleep much, but it’s very nice. I would tell everybody to go visit if they could get a chance to.”