Just a few days into a truly unexpected basketball opportunity, Sudbury Five head coach Logan Stutz is excited about the growth to be experienced, both on and off the court.
Working alongside fellow National Basketball League of Canada co-hort Joe Salerno (Moncton Magic), Stutz is serving as an assistant coach with the Syrian national men's team as they prepare for qualifying playdowns versus both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
"I'm learning a lot," said Stutz, who has known Salerno through NBLC circles for about five years or so. "I respected him and jumped on the chance to learn and join his staff."
"I have a feeling that this trip will make us friends, on and off the court, for a long time."
In terms of global FIBA rankings, Syria (90th) sits just ahead of Saud Arabia (92nd), with Qatar (72nd) certainly within earshot, while Canada, as a matter of interest, slides in at #21 in the world.
Part of the appeal is the chance for Stutz to try and merge his more North American mindset regarding style of play with a Syrian approach that has traditionally been much more systematic.
"I know we won't play as high scoring or as fast," Stutz acknowledged. "The style of play will be different, but we will do our best to play our style of basketball - and that will be neat to see."
It's also the area where Stutz expects to contribute the most.
"I have discussed my role with Joe," said Stutz. "He really likes the offensive perspective I bring to the game. We will be using some of the Sudbury Five Xs and Os in transition with spacing and pace."
"But overall, I am here to be his go to guy to bounce ideas and basketball talk off of, another voice to help him put the team in the best position to win a game."
If the basketball court has provided the comfort blanket for Stutz, there is little doubt that the world around him has provided the most eye-opening component of the trip, to date.
"As for Syria, I am shocked," said Stutz. "I came in with an open mind on what to expect, as I had heard many different things from many different sources. I am so impressed with Damascus, as a city."
"It's like any big city (just over two million population - 2019 estimate). There's kids playing in the park, people out walking, enjoying coffee. I will say the driving is a bit crazy and it is a very busy city, but I am enjoying my time here."
"I feel comfortable and happy to be here."