The EKU Colonels are heading down under.
Coach Jeff Neubauer announced Wednesday that the men’s basketball team will be participating in a summer foreign tour for the first time in the program’s history in August when it travels to Australia.
The Colonels will depart on Aug. 5 and return on Aug. 16 and will play games against professional teams in four cities — Sydney, Wollongong, Brisbane and Cairns.
“This is going to be a great experience for our guys,” Neubauer said. “On the basketball side, this will be a challenge. The teams we are going to face play at a very high level. This is also going to be a great opportunity for our players to see another part of the world.”
EKU will take on the Sydney Kings on Aug. 8, the Wollongong Hawks on Aug. 10, the Suncoast Clippers in Brisbane on Aug. 11 and finish up with a game against the Cairns Taipans Aug. 14.
The Kings, Hawks and Taipans play in Australian’s National Basketball League (NBL). Wollongong finished 13-15 in the league season, which ended in March, while Sydney and Cairns both finished with 12-16 records.
The Clippers play in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL), which began in May. The team is currently tied for eighth in the 13-team lead with a 5-5 record.
The players were told earlier in the summer there was a possibility of a foreign trip, junior Tommy Matthews said, but he didn’t think it was really going to happen until he was told to get a passport.
“I kind of didn’t believe it at first, but when they told us we needed to go to the post office and get a passport, I knew it was real and then I got excited,” Matthews said. “I’ve never been out of the country. I don’t think many of us have been out of the country, so we’re all excited. It’s been a fun process and I can’t wait to get started.”
The only player on the Colonels’ roster who has experience with overseas play is senior Deverin Muff, who played on an Athletes in Action team that went to New Zealand last summer.
Muff said he’s excited to get another opportunity to play outside the country again.
“Playing their rules is definitely different. There are some little subtle things like, throwing the ball in after the half, their walking rules are different and they use the trapezoid lane, so it definitely is an adjustment, but it’s just something you have to not complain and worry about, you just get over it,” Muff said. “I think the guys will really enjoy it and I know they are all excited to get to go out of the country to play.”
The NCAA allows teams taking foreign trips to have a maximum of 10 days of practice.
The Colonels lost six players from last season’s Ohio Valley Conference championship team to graduation and will have six newcomers on this year’s squad.
Those 10 days of practice and the games against tough competition in Australia will be a valuable opportunity for the team to get the newcomers and the returning players acclimated to each other, Matthews said.
“When I heard we would be playing pro teams I really got excited. I know it won’t be a walk in the park, it’s going to be some big-time games and we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “This will be a great chemistry builder for the team. We have a couple of freshmen and JUCO guys, so this will help us get them incorporated so they can get up to speed on our defenses and offenses before we start the preseason practices in the fall.”
Muff said the team he played with last year really bonded during the trip and he’s excited for what the Australian trip will do for the Colonels.
“This is the perfect time for a trip like this. On these trips your teammates are the only ones you know in whole country, so you have to depend on each other and trust each other so it really brings teams closer together,” he said. “But more than that, the extra 10 days of practice will really help with all the new guys and give us a head start over other teams heading into the season.
Times for the four games will be announced at a later date.
The EKU Colonels are heading down under.
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