Preseason in Paradise: Griffin Men’s Basketball Visits Costa Rica for Competition, Community Service, and Fun

By Greg Gornick

Zip lines, white water rafting, a touch-football game on the beach, hiking through rain forests, community outreach, and competitions versus professional national teams… is there a better way to get to know your teammates?

“Costa Rica was a great experience that I would not have gotten anywhere else,” said junior guard Aquil Stewart. “Not only was this my first time playing basketball in another country, but it was an incredible way for me to get to know my new teammates. It was a great way for us to grow closer together and build chemistry right before the season.”

From October 13 through 17, the Gwynedd Mercy University Men’s Basketball team took some time during their preseason schedule for a trip to Costa Rica. The Griffins enjoyed team building and adventure excursions, while also allocating pens, t-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, sunglasses, and writing tablets to the country’s less fortunate.

“This is my third time taking our team to Costa Rica and our fourth foreign trip in my tenure,” said Head Coach John Baron. “Not only did we have the honor of helping out some with underprivileged youth, but it was a great experience to be able to play against some of Costa Rica’s national teams and build our team chemistry with practices, competition, and some awesome experiences.

Coach Baron is in his 22nd season as the head men’s basketball coach at Gwynedd Mercy University. Under his direction, the Red and Gold has developed 43 all-conference performers, seven all-region selections (Badou Gaye ’05, Chris DelBrocco ’97, Dave Smith ’09, Dan DelConte ’12, Darnell Artis ’15, Julian Hyden ’16, Rich Dunham ’20), one two-time National All-American (Gaye ’05), and 18 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honors Court student-athletes. His education-first mindset and no-nonsense approach to the game seamlessly align with the athletic philosophy at Gwynedd Mercy University.

The 2022-2023 Gwynedd Mercy University men’s basketball season was one of maturation as a young Griffin roster recovered from an 0-5 start to finish 14-13 (7-5 AEC) with the #3 seed in the Atlantic Each Conference (AEC) Championship Tournament. The backcourt combination of D.J. Johnson and many Clark were key contributors to the league’s top defense and garnered recognition from the league office with the former named the AEC Rookie of the Year and the latter earning All-AEC First-Team status.