"The Rising Stars Foundation has always seen travel as an invaluable teaching tool for its teams," states founder Paul Savramis. "We have always tried to include new areas every year for our families to experience in addition to playing in local leagues."
So when Rising Stars veteran and former college coach James McCullough came to Paul Savramis with the idea of bringing his international travel initiative in Greece under the Rising Stars umbrella, Savramis was quick to say yes!
Paul Savramis explains that James knew that he had brought teams to Europe over an eight-year period and that they were very happy with the results and the success of the program. What he didn't know was that Paul Savramis was born in Greece and would like nothing more than to get back there with basketball in tow.
Paul Savramis had always believed in international travel and team competition as a cultural exchange. The eight-year program was primarily throughout Switzerland and through the Swiss All Star Basketball Camp but, more recently, the Rising Stars teams had visited Italy, Canada, and the Bahamas.
"Being able to utilize basketball as a passport for travel overseas has always been one of the greatest byproducts that I have personally enjoyed over the past 26 years with Rising Stars," explained Paul Savramis.
Conducting clinics across Switzerland and other similar events proved basketball is a language in itself and it needs no translation. According to Paul Savramis, the clinics had a universal appeal and his teams were always welcome wherever they went.
Savramis says, “One thing we try is to offer our teams something in addition to just going into a gymnasium. If we could schedule something special, the trip becomes an off-the-court experience that eclipses the one on it.” Savramis pointed out how the team stayed with host families in Canada, and members got to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
Coach McCullough began taking his teams to Greece five years ago and has built an amazing support system within the basketball community there. His partner and co-founder of the Greek initiative is James Pristouris, the director of the SuperLeague Athletic Academy and a grassroots representative for the Jr NBA. Paul Savramis says that the two have built something truly special and independent of anything outside what they have developed.
For Savramis, being a Greek-American, this initiative has the obvious plus of its location in Greece. However, he is quick to point out the appeal goes well beyond his heritage.
"James has coached the group that will be traveling to Greece this year for Rising Stars for three years. They have built a special bond and we are beyond proud of them on and off the court. Adding a cultural experience for them and their families will be a great thing for everyone and something that we at Rising Stars should embrace and return to. They have been self-funding for the program and working tirelessly to make it work."
The best testimonials come from previous teams and their families. “Life changing” is the common theme, and that's at every level of their lives.
Paul Savramis says that to see that impact on a child's life and to know that impact eclipses all of what happens here locally in school and elsewhere makes this something very special and worth supporting.