WOLCOTT — One year. At least $4,500.
A chance to play not only in a different country, but on a different continent.
A plus B equals C for Tri-County’s Jaedan Johnson, who was selected to participate in the Student-Athlete World Tour during the summer of 2021.
SaWUSA founder Tim Ryerson began the organization in October 2009 after spending eight years coaching at the Division II and Division III level. As part of his experience, Ryerson coached with four different international tours with another travel company. He began to learn more about the business side of the experience, and decided to begin his own company.
“I loved the business side of things and a few years later was able to pivot my business towards international travel,” Ryerson wrote on the About page of the SaWUSA website. “Travel has always been something that excited me. Leadership development and personal growth in young people is something I’m passionate about.”
The organization conducts multiple tours each year to locales throughout Europe, and Johnson was selected to participate in the United World Games. The itinerary includes a 10-day trip to Italy, Germany and Austria, with the basketball tournament being held in Austria. Orchestrated trips to the Dachau concentration camp, Venice, Italy, and Salzburg, Austria, bookend three days of basketball.
“My parents definitely thought it was a little sketchy at first, because we’ve never heard of it,” Johnson said. “But we started looking through the website and other people’s profiles and everything.
“We ended up looking up highlights of some of these kids on YouTube, and some of the highlights were of these games in the past. So we felt it looked legit and wanted to try it out.”
The process for the tour begins with a nomination form from a college recruiter and/or high school coach. Tri-County head coach Mark Gretencord wrote a recommendation letter for Johnson, and Johnson believes one of his Indiana Blackout Elite coaches also submitted his name for nomination.
“One day, I just got an email asking, ‘Hey, would you like to try out for a USA team going on a world tour?’” Johnson said. “I couldn’t make the trial date because I had a college camp that day, so I emailed them and said I would love to participate, but the date is off.
“They interviewed me through a Zoom call, and next thing you know, they told me they loved talking to me and agreed to let me join the team without a tryout.”
Gretencord hopes Johnson will be able to raise the funds.
“I think it will be a great experience for him,” the coach said. “Anytime you can go play and travel and have some fun, that’s a great opportunity. Hopefully it opens some doors for him in other aspects.”
Johnson need to raise $4,500 for just himself to participate, and noted the amount is roughly triple that ($12,000) if he brings along both his parents. He hopes to have at least one parent join him next summer. He’s worked two jobs this summer as part of his savings plan, and hopes to attain sponsorship money from businesses in the area or county.
“They’ll pay as much as they can to get me to go,” he said of his parents help for fundraising efforts.
Johnson has a fundraising page (https://bit.ly/39lqoxx) dedicated to the cause, which closes in mid-October. He’ll be fundraising throughout his senior year.
“A lot more experience, playing tougher competition,” is what Johnson looks forward to the most from the experience.
“I just hope I come out as a better basketball player and use it to help get looks from colleges.”