International Flavor: Bison Basketball

Morgan Davenport, Contributing Writer

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Left to right: Kevin Franchesci, Marko Zelic, head coach Quinn Wooldridge, Timotis Kuckailis and Vladimir Nemcock. / Photo Courtesy of OBU Athletics

Glancing at the Oklahoma Baptist men’s basketball roster, you could probably come to the conclusion that the coaching staff likes to reach out in terms of recruiting.

With players from Arizona, Indiana and Texas, Bison basketball spans pretty broadly over the United States, but they also herd in teammates from overseas.

In the fall of 1994, a young Quinn Wooldridge chose to join a successful OBU basketball team that didn’t take him very far away from home- an ironic statement considering his life now. Wooldridge traveled to Brazil- his first trip overseas- with his team that same year, where they served and played exhibition games throughout three cities.

He met his wife Andy (Holubova), a member of the Lady Bison’s 1,000 Point Club and highest average of blocked shots in OBU women’s basketball history, during his time as a student-athlete.

“OBU is a special place for my wife and I,” he said. “Some of the best times of our young lives took place there. We were both able to have a lot of success as basketball players and Andy was lucky enough to score a smoking hot husband in the process,” Wooldridge crooned.

In fact, Quinn’s favorite travel spot is his wife’s hometown of Trnava, Slovakia.

“Through our travels to visit Andy’s family in the summers over the years,” Wooldridge said, “I’ve had the chance to meet quite a few ‘basketball people.’” He cites connecting with people around the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the youth themselves as a wealth of knowledge, though several of the international kids Wooldridge has seen travel from overseas first attended junior colleges in the States.

“It’s definitely tougher on the players that come directly from home to the U.S.,” Wooldridge said. “By the time the guys have spent a year here either in junior college or high school, they are pretty well adjusted.

“Initially, the language and social differences are pretty tough, not to mention being half a world away from family.”

Take forward Niko Travica, for instance. A freshman from Pula, Croatia, Travica is spending his first long-term trip away from home with Oklahoma Baptist.

“Everything is different; people, culture, traditions, food, life in general,” Travica said.

Although it may seem like a vacation at times, adjustment is definitely not easy.

“I’m learning to become a responsible adult,” he said. “I like the opportunity I was given because if I would’ve stayed in Croatia, there was no way that I could grow as a player and get a college education because of the system.”

Senior guard Kevin Franceschi, an Argunteuil, France native, finds himself missing family, friends and the comfort of home from time to time.

“Leaving my family was the most difficult and overcoming adversity when you know you’re by yourself,” he said. “It became easier and easier with time and experience.”

Before transferring to Oklahoma Baptist, Franceschi was a member of the team at Missouri-Kansas City.

“After I got my release (from UMKC), I got a phone call from Coach Wooldridge,” he said. “I also knew Timotis (Kuckailis, an OBU teammate from Lithuania)- we played together in junior college, so it made my decision easier.”

“Quinn has been a big influence on me,” Franceschi said.

“The way he’s lived his life an the success that he had as a player and coach, being a great father to his kids and a great husband to his wife… He’s just a really good person to be around and learn from.”

And that seems to be the ultimate goal of Wooldridge’s squad- to grow as a player, a person and pedagogy. He takes into account a recruit’s character- how well they would fit in with the university’s student body, how they would carry the representation of the program both academically and socially.

“I also want a fun group, because I’ll spend as much time around my guys than my own family from September to May,” Wooldridge said.

In fact, while they’ve struggled with injuries and developing chemistry on the court, the Bison cherish every positive moment they can get.

“We still have time to find our stride and reach our potential this year,” Wooldridge said. “Our team this year is a complicated puzzle of strengths and weaknesses, just like every team.

“When we have all our pieces and get used to how they fit together, we will be very good.”

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