Every summer, USA East Coast takes a select group of some of the country’s top college basketball players and brings them abroad for a series of exhibition and cup games.
As a whole, the program has hosted and helped produce 11 NBA players, including current Golden State Warrior Quinn Cook and Archbishop Molloy High School legend Russ Smith, along with over 50 overseas basketball standouts.
USA East Coast was founded by Guy Rancourt, a Queens native who grew up on Grand Avenue and 79th street. He always had the intention of aiding young ballplayers through international basketball, and the life that comes with it.
After all, he’s been a college basketball coach for 21 years.
“The premise was to get college players the opportunity to experience a semester abroad from a basketball perspective,” said Rancourt, who was named the head coach at Western Connecticut University after 10 seasons at Pennsylvania-based Lycoming College. “Once that happened, it evolved into giving the players an experience of what life would be like abroad both socially and athletically.”
While overseas, USA East Coast competes against several professional and national teams, giving the group of domestic collegiate stars a taste of what their future may hold in their respective careers.
In 2009, USA East Coast went 4-0-1 in Europe, and two years later ,the group appeared in the Four Nations Cup for the first time, representing the United States at Tallinn, Estonia, in the tournament.
Matt Caputo, who grew up a few doors down and has worked with Rancourt as a consultant for USA East Coast, says he gained a lot in his short time with the program.
“This is a great program that helps prepare these young guys for the mental and physical demands of highly competitive basketball,” he said of Rancourt, who played at both St. Adalbert and on the old CYO teams from the Ascension parish in Elmhurst. “Guy is as local a person doing anything on this level as we know.”
Rancourt, an alum of Archbishop Molloy, has coached the team every season, with the exception of 2014 and 2017.
In 2014, USA East Coast was led into Europe by current South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. Last season, Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Brown, a New York native and head coach for five decades, oversaw the USA East Coast.
“The USA stuff is really just to give guys a feel of what it’s like to be overseas and to have that international experience while you’re in college for four years,” Rancourt said. “It gives them a taste of what they might be dealing with abroad.
“We’re used to our Cocoa Puffs and Rice Krispies in the morning,” he added, “They might be looking at cold cuts and fish as a breakfast, a staple where they’re going –– it’s a unique opportunity to learn and experience different cultures.”
Over 12 years, USA East Coast has taken players to France, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Slovakia, among other countries.
This coming summer, the team will participate in a two-day training camp at Columbia University in Manhattan, and will stay in the dorms for the feel of an authentic getaway, before heading out to Europe for the 2018 ECAS schedule.
After the training camp from July 30 to August 1, the team will then fly to Venice, Italy, where they’ll stay until August 8 for the International Tournament, where they’ll face Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
“You’re one of the best players in America, you get to attend a wonderful university, you do everything the right way, and receive your four-year degree,” Rancourt said. “You then have this next step in life taking you out of the academic realm.”
“You’re now in the real world, on your own two feet, and that can be scary. To know that a young man has traveled with us, and he’s been able to comfortably make the transition into something wonderful, that’s the happiest part for me,” he added. “That’s the part I’m really proud of.”