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European trip for men's basketball!!
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WazzuCoug82 Offline
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The Western Michigan University men's basketball team will have the opportunity of a lifetime when it travels to Europe in August to compete against second division professional teams. The 12-day trip will take the team to France, Switzerland and Monaco.
This will be the first foreign trip for the WMU basketball program in 25 years.

In order to compete during the summer months, head coach Robert McCullum said the National Collegiate Athletic Association requires teams to travel overseas. The national sporting body allows a foreign trip every four years per institution with no limitation as to how many games are played.

"The NCAA does not allow competition against other universities and colleges within the country during the summer," said McCullum. "You can't compete during the summer so you have to travel overseas to get that experience."

The Broncos are scheduled to play six games against teams that are equivalent to those competing in the United States Continental Basketball Association or the National Basketball Association Developmental League.

According to McCullum the trip is essential in preparation for the upcoming season.

"The additional practice time is important, especially for the guys who did not get the opportunity to play last year," said McCullum. "They will be able to get more experience before conference play begins, against college-type competition. These teams are basically the second level of professional teams from France."

McCullum added that the trip would also give last season's Mid-American Conference Newcomer of the Year, Ben Reed a chance to test the capabilities of his season-ending knee surgery. Reed tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Ball State University on Feb. 20, 2002.

"It will give him the reassurance that his knee has heeled well and that he is able to get through the rigors of the upcoming season," said McCullum. "Having a good opportunity to give him that reassurance will mean a great deal as opposed to not testing it until mid-November."

Another important factor of the trip will be the chance for the team to bond together.

"When you go on a foreign trip you are almost forced to depend on each other because you are all that you have," said McCullum. "When you bond together one of the biggest things is that your chemistry really improves."

Junior guard, Robby Collum said that the bonding experience would make the team grow stronger as a more cohesive unit.

"I think it will help us through the tough situations of a game," he said. "We will be on the other side of the planet, so we will have to depend on each other. It will be a good experience because it is just going to be us over there, just 14 or 15 players and that's something to look forward to."

Collum is also excited for the cultural and educational experience that the trip has to offer and said that he is equally excited to visit each country.

"Personally, it will be an experience of a lifetime to see how other countries run themselves, what happens over there and how they live," he said. "It will give the team an educational experience of how things happen on the other side of the globe."

The trip will also provide the team an opportunity to show-off the hard work they have put in during the summer months. Senior guard Antwan Joseph said he wants to prove to Coach McCullum that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win games this year.

In addition, Joseph knows that the experience will be advantageous in enhancing the team's chemistry.

"We will get the chance to bond, to get to know each other a little better," he said. "You're in a situation or country where English is not their primary language and it forces you to rely on each other as opposed to being out there on your own. So I think it will be good for the players and coaches as well."

Senior forward, Terrance Slater believes the trip will be a valuable stepping-stone to a post-collegiate basketball career.

"It will help those of us who are thinking of playing basketball after college," he said. "We will have the opportunity to build some references and contacts for the future."

He also said the trip would give the players an idea of where their strengths and weaknesses are in comparison to other players.

"I think it will also be a confidence builder," he said. "If we can go over there, play good and win some games we'll have a better understanding of each other in preparation for next season."

The itinerary will include day-trips in France where the team will visit the Palace of Versailles, the cities of Paris, Lyon, and Nice. The tour will also include stops in Montreux, Switzerland and Monaco, Monte Carlo where the team will witness first-hand the changing of the guard at the Prince's Palace.

"It doesn't really matter where we go," said Slater. "As long as we're playing basketball and we are together, I am just excited to see all of the sites." Slater added that it is important to study whilst on the trip. "Not many people get the opportunity to go overseas doing the thing they love," he said. "So to take a class to learn about how other people live, how they treat each other and just the culture will be a good experience."

The curriculum will include a two-credit discussion-oriented class, which will be taught by WMU emeritus, Dr. Lewis Walker. Dr. Walker was a professor of sociology at WMU until 1999. He added that the itinerary is planned so players can maximize the opportunities to learn about different cultures, history and diversity. The team will also visit historical landmarks to learn about their significance, in addition to the many daily interactions with a foreign culture.

Although he has his qualms about the trip, sophomore guard Rickey Willis said that he is excited for the opportunity to play basketball abroad. "I'm just afraid of flying," he said. "But I know that I will be warmed up and ready to go once we get there."

The trip will be fully funded by fundraising and donations from the Western Michigan University community. The coaching staff has worked hard to raise awareness and resources to fund the trip. The team held various dinners in order to raise money, in addition to the generous donations from many WMU alumni.

"The coaches have organized money to be raised by sponsors, donations and support from organizations around campus," said Collum. "We are relying on the generosity of the WMU community, but without the involvement of the coaches in raising money, this trip would not have been possible."

McCullum said few programs are able to take teams on foreign trips without fundraising. "Realistically it just isn't in our budget to fund this trip ourselves," said McCullum. "The response has been outstanding and without the support of the community this would not have become a reality."

The last time a men's basketball team enjoyed the experience was more than 25 years ago. That was the 1975-76 squad that went on to claim that year's MAC Championship. The current squad of Bronco's hope the trip will produce the same success.
07-26-2002 12:16 PM
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