Under head coach Bruce Pearl, the Auburn men’s basketball team recently returned from a preseason trip to Israel that had significance far beyond the basketball court.
In addition to playing three exhibition games and winning two against professional competition, the Tigers also took the opportunity to draw closer to God.
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“My players are going to see their Judeo-Christian roots, and for those who want to be baptized in the Jordan, they will,” Pearl told the Jerusalem Post Last week. “They will walk in the garden where Jesus walked, and they will pray at the Western Wall. And they will directly experience the presence of God in the Holy Land. Come and see it, you will be changed forever.
A number of Auburn players have been baptized in the same river that Jesus was nearly 2,000 years ago, including the Junior Guard Wendell Green Jr.first-year goaltender Tre Donaldson and junior forward Chris Moore.
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) August 5, 2022
– WENDELL GREEN JR ✞💜 (@icyywen) August 8, 2022
Junior center Dylan Cardwell detailed the unforgettable experience on his blog.
“We first went to see Mount of Olives, who had the most amazing view,” Cardwell wrote. “From there we descended the mountain and visited the beautiful Garden of Gethsemane, which has been preserved since the time Jesus walked the Earth. We even walked along the Via Dolorosawhich is the historical path traveled by Jesus before his crucifixion.
“My favorite was to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where jesus was buried. It was an incredible sight to see. … The next day we went to Bethlehem where jesus was born. It was another important scene. Just being able to stand where Jesus once stood was a crazy experience.
Auburn’s players weren’t the only ones impressed. So does Pearl, who first visited Israel in 2009. He is of Jewish descent and joined the Sports Spectrum podcast in May 2019.
“I think there will be other college teams that want to come in and put on this competition and have this kind of historical, educational, religious, spiritual experience“, he said in a interview with the SEC network. “It was nothing surprising.”
Thanks Israel…Trip of a lifetime🇮🇱🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/WpD9bCbqmS
—Johni Broome (@JohniBroome) August 9, 2022
The Tigers played their first game in Israel against the National Under-20 team and won convincingly, 117-56. Their second match against the Israeli All-Star Select team was also lopsided, as they took a 107-71 win. Auburn’s third and final game of the exhibition tour was a hard-fought 95-86 loss to the Israel National Team.
Many expect the Tigers to be a top-15 national team next season, and they’ll begin their quest to defend their SEC regular-season championship Nov. 7 with a home game against George Mason.
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