NCAA rules allow every Division 1 men’s basketball program to take an international trip as a team every 4 years. Some teams travel to Canada, Asia or somewhere more tropical. The Providence College Friars will travel to another popular overseas trip locale this Summer – Italy. The trip will be for 10 days from August 12th-22nd. No specifics have been announced about opponents or number of games but it seems reasonable to assume that the Friars will play about 4 games against Italian professional teams during their stay.
The benefits of these trips are numerous for teams. One of the more obvious benefits is being able to play against someone other than yourself. This is especially valuable for coaches to be able to see any transfers and/or freshman compete in a game atmosphere. The additional practice allowed as a result of and during these trips is another benefit. Normally relegated to 8 weeks of offseason work at only 2 hour per week clips, this trip will afford Coach Cooley and his staff an additional 10 practices before the trip and all kinds of additional practice and game scenarios to evaluate, teach and get a feel for their team during the trip itself. But, at least in my opinion, where the largest benefit of these trips lies is in the bonding and team building potential. Last year we heard from more than one player about the benefit that the preseason Navy SEAL training that the 2013-2014 Friars underwent in August 2013.
The off the court bonding has shown to lead to good things during the season too. A 2011 evaluation by Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News, in which he randomly selected 27 teams that went on an international tour between 2006 and 2010, showed that the average win totals of those 27 teams increased by 2 from their preceding season. With the loss of graduating players in Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts, Lee Goldsbrough, Brice Kofane and Ted Bancroft, the Friars will welcome at least 4 new faces to the mix with their current 4 person incoming class of freshman. Beginning to blend the old with the new certainly will be something Ed Cooley will be looking for during this August sojourn.
For LaDontae Henton, this will be his first organized opportunity to take full control of the leadership duties for his Senior season in Friartown. Henton will have to take on a more expanded scoring load to help make up for the approximately 34 points per game that will be heading out the door. He and Carson Desrosiers will be the only Seniors on the 2014-2015 squad (barring any 5th year transfers that might occur) and while Desrosiers will see an expanded role and will have the chance to be a leader for this Friars club, Henton is the key cog this upcoming season and that season now officially will begin in Italy in August 2014.
The trip also could serve as an additional recruiting carrot for Ed Cooley and his staff to hang in front of any potential 5th year transfers. Obviously many of these players want to go somewhere for their final year of eligibility where they will have an opportunity to play a lot of minutes on a winning team. It appears PC can offer that to the right player. But it doesn’t hurt that a 10 day trip to Italy would come along with those other things at Providence this season.
The final benefit that I think is worth mentioning here is the ability to be seen by and against professional teams in Italy. While playing in the NBA is likely the dream of every player on this PC team, the reality is that most of them won’t get there. But, as Kadeem Batts is likely to soon find out, playing professionally in Europe can be a very lucrative alternative to the NBA. Many of the top European leagues happen to be in Italy. Italian league, Lega Basket Serie A is widely considered to be one of the top professional leagues in the world outside the USA.