Bougher and Jacksonville State teammate Stephen Hall are among a band of current and former mid-major and small college basketball players currently on an eight-day tour of Belize, where they are playing six games against the country’s better club and university teams. The squad is coached by Gamecocks assistant Tom Schuberth
“I’m looking forward to it,” Bougher said prior to the trip. “I heard it’s on the beach and really nice over there. I’m pretty pumped.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this. I’m really excited. I’m ready to play basketball and represent the United States.”
Bougher, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Memphis, will give the team an outside threat, just as the Gamecocks expect this coming season from one of their few holdovers (including coaches) from last year’s 5-25 squad. Hall, a 6-6 senior forward, will give it strength inside.
The remainder of the eight-man travel team includes 6-10 Mercer center Daniel Coursey, two players previously with Southern Illinois and IUPUI, and players from Cincinnati-Clermont, Virginia Intermont and Belhaven.
Bougher said it made him feel “really good” when Schuberth picked him for the trip, which is sponsored by Sports Reach, a Christian outreach group based in Kentucky similar to Athletes In Action.
“It made me feel like he has a lot of confidence in me and Stephen,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard this summer. I’m going to try to make an impact this season. This can help me in my game and our team.”
The trip almost didn’t happen for the Gamecocks trio as JSU officials only approved their going Friday, the day before they left. The trip ends Sunday.
While Bougher is making his first trip abroad, Schuberth has been a frequent flier on the ministry’s tours. He has coached teams on trips to China, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ivory Coast.
“Tom is good people,” said Robby Speer, Sport Reach’s co-founder and executive director. “He’s a neat Christian guy, but he’s just a good dude.
“What I like from the basketball end is I love that Tom takes charge. When he’s coaching the game, he’s coaching it to try to win … and he expects the same kind of effort you’d put in a game in the Ohio Valley Conference when you go on the floor in Belize.
“If you don’t give him that effort there, he’ll get on them. He’ll tell them you’re not just representing yourselves and your school, you’re representing the Lord so you’re effort shouldn’t be less than its best.”
Even though they’ll be playing ball, the players won’t be consumed by basketball on the trip. In addition its games, the team will be out in the community, visiting local hospitals and experiencing the culture as part of its evangelical mission.
“We violate every principle of game preparation ever invented,” Speer said. “If it works that we get to do something, we’ll do it and come game time we’ve got to be ready.
“I know it’s a mission trip, but one thing everybody says is that was fun. I want them to have a great time basketball wise and spiritually, but I want them to have fun. This is their time. I want them to relax and enjoy it.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for the Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.