It wasn't important that they had no chance to win. The members of the Burundi national basketball team were just happy to be playing on a court with a roof over it and nets hanging from the rims.
"These guys haven't ever played in a gym before," Burundi coach Craig Madzinski said before the African team's 100-29 loss to Coppin State in an exhibition game last night at Coppin Center.
"We play outside," said Madzinski, a former Loyola, Ill., assistant who is coaching the Burundi team as part of a program sponsored by the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island. "We play in the rain. There are parts of the court we can't go on because of the cracks. This will be the first time they've shot at rims with nets."
Actually, the team had been practicing at George Washington University for a few days before the game last night, which was the first of an 11-game tour of the eastern United States. Burundi will play at Maryland Eastern Shore at 8 tonight and at Mount St. Mary's on Nov. 20.
"We're happy to be playing in the USA," guard Etienne Sahabo said. "When the Americans play, they are so calm. They think before they do anything."
Burundi is a small, landlocked country in east central Africa, where basketball has been played for only about 30 years, Madzinski said.
But Madzinski, who said most of his players have been playing for about five or six years, made sure to point out the Burundi players are not "basketball Neanderthals." Indeed, they ran plays and threw picks last night. They seemed to know what they were doing.
"We tried" to learn, guard Patrick Murengerantwari said. "It's very different."