By Joshua Austin
The Smith Fieldhouse has been filled with the familiar sounds of basketballs pounding the hardwood as the BYU men”s basketball team prepares for their five-game, 11-day tour of France to compete against foreign competition.
The Cougars, who depart Wednesday, get an early start to the 2007-08 season with the overseas tour. NCAA rules allow teams to travel abroad only once every four years, with only returning players eligible for travel. To better prepare, each team is allotted 10 additional practice days.
The Cougars will travel eight players in total, including sophomore Chris Miles, who is returning after having served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and are looking to returning starters like juniors Trent Plaisted and Lee Cummard to lead the way.
“I think it will be a fun trip,” Plaisted said. “All these guys are my friends; I”m looking forward to the chance to spend time with them.”
Coach Dave Rose hopes this experience will unite this year”s squad, especially after losing three key starters in Keena Young, Austin Ainge and Jimmy Balderson.
“This is something we look forward to every four years,” Rose said. “Just being together, competing and having a chance to develop our own identity to a new team. This group of guys went through a lot last year as they competed for a conference championship; this will be the start of a new season.”
Plaisted and Cummard are the only returning starters and are expected to once again help lead the Cougars.
“What you always hope for is that there is a lot of carry-over with your returning players when your new players come in,” Rose said. “This really helps solidify that carry-over because we have 10 days with them … that”s a real benefit for us.”
Team unity, camaraderie and leaning to play together are their main priorities.
“We just want to go over there, have fun and compete as a team,” Cummard said, “and just come together as a group of guys.”
“We”re trying to go over there and accomplish some things as far as becoming more cohesive,” Plaisted said. “We want to have a good time and get some games under our belt.”
While in France, the Cougars will have to adjust to some significant rule changes, primarily a 24-second shot clock, four-quarter game play and a deeper three-point arch.
“There”s some big rule changes,” Cummard said, “and we”re all getting used to it; [we”re] still a little unsure of some of them, but we will see when we get over there.”
This tour is difficult to prepare for, but will undoubtedly help prepare the Cougars for the 2007-08 season.
“Preparation is a lot different in these games,” Rose said. “You don”t really have a scouting report, and you have to figure it out as you go, but these are all good experiences for your players.”
With only eight players making the trip, and five games, fatigue may be a factor as the players take the court, but Rose has only one expectation.
“My biggest expectation with this group is that they play hard, they play together and we really compete no matter what the situation is,” Rose said.