Aug. 6, 2009
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Thousands of miles away from home and stuck on a team filled with strangers, Quincy Acy could have very easily pouted or escaped into his own shell when he went to Katowice, Poland, and Berlin, Germany, back in May with an Athletes in Action team from the U.S.
But the Baylor sophomore forward's infectious smile, sense of humor and love of life was an instant hit with head coach Kevin McKenna from Indiana State and a roster of players that included Colorado sophomore guard Dwight Thorne II, Indiana State's Dwayne Lathan and Koang Duluony, Washington State's Abe Lodwick and Robbie Cowgill and Valparaiso's Cory Johnson and Brandon Wood.
"He has a great personality, treated all with respect and is a heck of a basketball player," McKenna said of Acy. "He is very explosive and athletic, which was very appealing to the European fans."
One of Acy's shining moments came in the Athletes in Action's third game of the tour, a relatively easy 100-88 win over Team Polania 2011. With the game well in hand, Coach McKenna asked if any of the players were willing to sit out the last minute or so to let his son, Bobby, get in the game.
"Quincy stepped right up and said, `Let Bobby play for me,''' said the elder McKenna, a proud papa when his high school-aged son swished in a 3-pointer late in the game. "That was a very nice thing to do, and my son will never forget playing over there against some pros."
One of the culture shocks for the Texas-bred Acy was the food. Other than the native Polish sausage, Acy wasn't too sure about the cuisine.
"I don't even remember the names of it, but it was weird," Acy said. "In Germany, we ate American food. They had a couple American places (like Kentucky Fried Chicken). But in Poland, we were just eating the food that was there."
On one of the first mornings in Poland, the players' breakfast included a plate full of cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Another day it was cucumber slices, ham, bread (with butter and jelly), cereal with warm milk and coffee.
The next adjustment for Acy was adapting to the international game. Known more for their finesse game and 3-point shooting than physical play inside, the teams from Poland and Germany kept Acy and his AIA teammates on their toes defensively.
"It was different," he said. "It was like there weren't too many athletic people. They just played as a team and ran everything. They weren't going to come down and take quick shots. They were more like pick-and-pop instead of pick-and-roll. So I couldn't just hedge on the pick and go back to the paint. I had to hurry up and go back out to the 3-point line, because I'm going to face some of that playing in college. So that was good, getting that part of the defense down.
"Even people that didn't look like they'd shoot 3s. They didn't even have a form, but they'd go out there and hit it. And I was like, `Man!'''
Playing against club and semi-pro teams, the AIA team was undefeated through the first four games before falling to Team Alba from Berlin, 79-71, in the fifth and final game of the tour.
"Everybody was getting mad (at the hometown referees)," Acy said. "And (Team Director) Mike Sigfrid was like, `Hey, keep your cool.' So that was a good experience, too, just overcoming adversity and playing through the refs. Because that's the way it's going to be on a tough away game. And that's all that was. We were in another country with their refs. It was tough (handling it), but we did."
As a freshman forward, Acy set a Big 12 Conference record by hitting his first 18 shots to start the season and ended up averaging 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. And while he shot 65.5 percent from the field, all but a handful of shots came within a couple feet of the basket and most of them were on monster dunks.
But on the AIA tour, McKenna allowed Acy the chance to work on his outside shooting game.
"The coach, he let me shoot a lot of 15-footers," Acy said. "I didn't shoot any 3s or anything like that, but I've got my 15-footers down. That's what I've been working on all summer."
With four seniors leaving from a team that won 24 games and advanced to the NIT championship, including a trio of 1,000-point career scorers, the Bears and head coach Scott Drew will lean on Acy for even more this season.
"Summertime is a great time to work on your game," Drew said. "And Quincy playing for another coach and having an opportunity to work on some of those areas gives him a huge advantage. I know Quincy's spent a lot of time this off-season working on his consistency from 15 feet and his overall skill around the basket. He's gotten bigger and stronger during the off-season with our strength and conditioning program. And as all freshmen do, he's maturing as a basketball player and as a person."
With 7-1 center Mamadou Diene and 6-9 forward Kevin Rogers both graduating, Acy said the Bears' rotation of big man "is not as deep anymore." Replacing them are 6-10 junior forward/center Ekpe Udo, a transfer from Michigan, and 6-9 freshman forward Cory Jefferson in a frontline that also includes 7-foot senior center Josh Lomers.
"We've got Ekpe coming in, and I'm really looking forward to playing with him," Acy said. "And then we've got Josh back and Cory coming in and then it's just me. Cory's a freshman, so he's got to go through the fall like I did. So I know I've got to step up. I've been putting in work, doing a little extra conditioning and all that, because I know I'm going to need it."
The AIA tour could give Acy a leg up going into next season.
"I think anytime a player has a chance to go overseas, it's a great experience," Drew said. "Not only on the basketball floor, but also to help prepare them in life. He got a chance to see the different lifestyles that give him another perspective on the world that we live in. And then spiritually, there aren't many times in life where we're given the opportunity to go on a mission trip and help spread the gospel. That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a college basketball player."
Beyond the basketball, Acy and the rest of the players had a daily Bible study, made a trip to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Germany, and also took a bike tour through Berlin.
"(The Bible studies) helped me to see where I'm at with Christ," Acy said. "I got to see where I needed to be and where I thought I was. It was a real eye-opener for me."
"All in all, the players had fun together, grew to depend on each other, shared their personal faith with each other and generally had a great experience with the trip," McKenna said.
The players also got the chance to help McKenna and Illinois coach Bruce Webber with a coaches' clinic and a kids' clinic in Poland. An instant celebrity because of his ability to dunk, Acy signed everything from shirts to basketballs for a group of 100 new fans.
"They treated us like we were celebrities," he said.
Armed with a few Polish words - dziekuje, which means thank you in Polish, was his favorite - Acy let everyone know it.
"The guys (mostly led by Dwayne and Quincy) have been shouting, `Dziekuje' down the halls at the university and at KFC tonight," wrote AIA team blogger Chris Sigfrid. "It seems to be their response to anything and everything (it's pretty funny)."
And then in a follow-up blog after the kids' clinic, Sigfrid wrote, "Dwayne and Quincy - the two players that have been picking up and trying out Polish phrases - used their newfound dialect to say, `What's up?' `Thank you,' and `Please' in Polish to all the kids. Sometimes completely out of order or at completely random moments that make you crack up when you hear it."
Acy said he got close to everybody on the team, because "you're around them all day every day." But if he goes back next summer, Acy would like to bring a couple of his Baylor teammates with him, "because I was like the only guy there by myself. But other than that, it was a great trip."