Like most young athletes, Antonio Orr, 16, has dreamt of taking on the best of the best, and this summer, he got his chance.
In June, the local high school junior traveled to Spain to represent the United States in the 2017 Euro Basketball Cup, where he faced off against talented players from all over the world.
"It was a good experience being able to play different types of competitions, being able to play with different rules, just [being able to play] in a different environment altogether," said Antonio, who plays on the junior varsity team at Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences. "Everything was different, but it still had the same concept: just put the ball in the hoop."
Antonio was selected to participate in the international basketball tournament by STUDENTathleteWorld Tours, a North Carolina-based organization that provides student-athletes with opportunities to travel and compete. Joining him on Team USA were eight other exceptional students from across the nation, each chosen by the organization based on a combination of athletic ability, academic performance, leadership and character.
"It's not about just being a great basketball player, but also being able to represent USA well," said Antonio's mother, Tanyell Davidson, alluding to her son's involvement with the Kappa Leadership League of Chattanooga leadership club for young men. "He is a great kid — very respectful and humble. I am a proud mother."
Antonio caught STUDENTathleteWorld Tours' attention soon after crew members saw recordings of his performance at one of the various basketball camps he had attended over the years. Though Antonio pointed to his ball-handling skills and court IQ as reasons he may have stood out, he attributed his success to training from NBA trainer Christopher Collins and Ricky Taylor of international ministry Ricky Taylor Basketball.
"You can't do anything without a good support group behind you," Antonio said, adding his family and neighbors to his list of supporters. "They had my back the entire time and looked forward to me doing good."
From June 23-25, Antonio and his team took on players from London, Germany and Spain, and though they only had one practice together, Team USA won second place.
"Honestly, it was a great feeling just playing together and seeing the type of magic we could make out there on the court," Antonio said.
For the rest of his eight-day trip, the CSAS student had a chance to explore Barcelona and experience a different culture, an opportunity he said he may not have had if not for STUDENTathleteWorld. The exposure and experience could also help him lock down a college scholarship, his mother added, though she said for her son, the trip was all about playing the sport he loves and representing not just the United States as a whole, but Chattanooga, as well.
"It shows that there's more talent in Tennessee than people actually think," Antonio said.
Email Myron Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org