Canada trip will give Knights a chance to practice over summer
Published: Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 16:07
This summer, the UCF men's basketball team will be taking their talents north.
North of the border, to be precise.
Head coach Donnie Jones, who is entering his second year with the program, will get to run some practices and coach some games a bit earlier than usual this year, as the Knights will be taking an exhibition tour in Montreal, running Aug. 10 through Aug. 14.
The tour will feature three games against Canadian college teams over the course of the four-day trip. Ten days of practice with the coaching staff will be allowed before the trip, which is important for a team welcoming in three incoming freshmen and three transfers.
"I think this trip is huge for our program. We can add in the new faces and the ones back, and now it gives us a chance in the summertime to bond and have 10 days to practice," Jones said in a release. "Especially to our new kids, it's a huge advantage to go to Canada and go play against [three] different opponents."
Normally, with NCAA rules, the Knights would only be able to workout and play pick-up games at the practice facility on their own over the summer, which they are currently doing.
Teams do not get to practice and interact with the coaching staff until much closer to the season. However, the NCAA allows for teams to take a foreign exhibition trip every four years, as well as limited practice time beforehand to prepare.
The last time UCF took such a trip was in 2005, when the program visited Belgium, Holland and France.
With the influx of new faces, the trip could not have come at a better time for a program that saw glimmers of bigger things to come last season, and the players are excited.
"I feel like it's great because I haven't played in a year, and it gives me a chance to get my little jitters and a couple of the kinks out," forward Tristan Spurlock, who spent last season on the scout team after transferring, said. "I've never been to Canada, so I'm excited."
Point guard A.J. Rompza, who has been a leader on the team and a fan favorite, is entering his senior year and said he recognizes the value of the trip as his his final season approaches.
"I think it's huge just to be able to get those practices under our belt," Rompza said. "Obviously [the transfers] learned some of the system last year, but it's different from going over it to actually being in it now."
The returning players also said they are excited to get a chance to play with the freshmen. The Knights recruiting class this off-season is widely regarded as the best in the program's history. Recruits Rod Days, Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson have all enrolled and started working out at the team's practice facilities.
UCF's most heralded recruit of the class, ESPNU Top 100 center Michael Chandler, has still not fully qualified academically for the fall and is actively working on improving his grades in order to join the program and enroll when the fall semester begins.
"For the freshmen, they haven't really seen [play at the college level] yet," Spurlock said. "That's great for them to be able to get in the fire early."
Jones, in a release, said he will approach the games the same way he would in-season, watching film and preparing like normal. He said he looks forward to using players in different spots and seeing how they respond and hopes the trip will lead to a team that will "hit the ground running" when the actual preseason begins.
"I think it will be good for team chemistry and what not," Rompza said. "That's always the most important thing in winning, is not so much the talent, of course you need it, but to me it's really the chemistry you bring off the court that leads to on-the-court success."