Hoop Cardinals heading to Costa Rica next weekend

Published 6:47 pm Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — The month of July has flipped to August, college students across the country are preparing to return to school for another year, and the Lamar Cardinals are also back on campus prepping for the upcoming season, but it might not be the Cardinals you’re expecting to read about.

The LU men’s basketball team is on campus and working toward the start of the 2017-18 basketball season, but this season gets under way a little earlier than normal. The Cardinals will head to Costa Rica for at least two international contests to help prep for the new year.

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The Costa Rica trip is being organized through Basketball Traveler’s Inc., which helps put on tournaments throughout the year like the Paradise Jam and Junkanoo Jam, and has been a major part of the World University Games.

The Cardinals leave for Costa Rica Sunday, Aug. 13, and will spend four days in the Central American country before flying home on Aug. 18. Big Red will play at least two games during their trip, and those will be contests against McGill University and the Costa Rican national team.

“This has become a popular trend in (NCAA) Division I basketball,” said LU head coach Tic Price. “The NCAA will grant some earlier practice to prepare for these trips and then you get some extra games in as well. It goes beyond taking a vacation. We are trying to get better as a team, and we are going there to take care of business. The goal is that these trips will help you be better prepared for the season as you take on teams that have been playing together for a while.”

In addition to getting better on the court, the trip will also be used to help the players strengthen their bond as a team.

“We want to get better as a team, but this is also an opportunity to give our guys a chance to experience other cultures they might not otherwise have,” said Price. “We’re in the business of graduating young men – helping them achieve their next step in life whether that be on the court or in the business world. I want our players to be well-rounded young men. We will be doing team-building projects while on this trip, in addition to working on the court.”

The trip has allowed the Cardinals to begin preseason workouts earlier than normal. Big Red stepped on the court Monday and has been working out each day. Although the trip doesn’t count against the Cardinals 2017-18 record, it will present the coaching staff and players with some new challenges.

“We definitely will not have the ability to do any advanced scouting, so this trip we focus on just our basketball team,” said Price. “In addition to that, the international game is a little different than ours. We will have to adjust to a 24-second shot clock, they have smaller lanes and the international game is a different style than what the majority of fans are used to in the United States.

“Despite those challenges, we are looking for our guys to be aggressive. I want to us clean up our offensive execution with the new wrinkles we’re adding. I want to see which guys aggressively pursue rebounds and make half-court stops. We look at the effort areas, which guys are playing with heart and determination,” added Price.

An additional challenge the Cardinals will face is the fact they are going on the trip shorthanded. LU will be without the services of three players — sophomore Torey Noel, junior Nick Garth and senior Christian Albright — who were suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.

When the players return to the Golden Triangle, they will have a few short days to get ready for the start of the new academic year, and a new basketball season. There is a great deal of anticipation for the 2017-18 season. Coming off their first postseason run since 2012, the Cardinals have already received some attention as the projected favorite to represent the Southland Conference in the NCAA Championships. Big Red’s last run to the NCAA tournament came during the 2011-12 season.

“We had a team meeting before starting practice, and I asked the guys ‘Who here has played in the NCAA tournament?’ No one, other than coaches, raised their hands. That is not acceptable for Lamar Cardinals basketball. These guys understand we have work to do.”