Once again, the Wisconsin Badgers’ men’s basketball team will cross international borders on a preseason trip.
This time around, the youthful and mostly unproven group of Badgers is also jumping across an ocean.
Wisconsin’s athletic department announced on Monday the itinerary of the program’s 12-day, five-game tour starting next month. The trip begins on Aug. 12 and runs through the 24th, and includes traveling to both New Zealand and Australia.
As you might remember, the 2013-14 squad featuring the likes of Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, and Nigel Hayes traveled to Canada and eventually worked its way to a Final Four berth later that season.
In similar fashion, Greg Gard and his coaching staff now have to replace four starters in Hayes, Bronson Koenig—who was also a part of that squad four years prior—Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown.
Newcomers Brad Davison, Kobe King, and Nathan Reuvers— along with redshirt freshman Aleem Ford— will need to integrate themselves into a young group needing to replace four major contributors with redshirt junior and first-team All-Big Ten forward Ethan Happ the only returning starter. The opportunity parallels the program’s Canadian trip, and with rules allowing college basketball teams to travel every four years, the lessons learned on this excursion should help this team in a challenging Big Ten conference.
“With such an influx of newcomers on the roster this year, this is really an ideal time for a trip like this,” Gard said in a release. “The experience we’ll gain is invaluable. The extra practices and travel experiences can expedite team bonding and chemistry and then obviously the games will give our guys a great chance to get their feet wet.”
In addition to the five games, Wisconsin will be able to hold 10 full practices this summer. The Badgers will face former Wisconsin standout Kirk Penney on Aug. 15 against the New Zealand Breakers. After another game in the country two days later, they hop over to Australia to play three games from the 19th through the 22nd.
“There were really three reasons when New Zealand and Australia emerged as the best option,” Gard said. “When we started researching the trip, we found that the cost was similar or even less in some cases than a trip to Europe. We also thought that from a safety standpoint this trip made a lot of sense. Then lastly, our connection with Kirk Penney and the ability to use his contacts and expertise of the area was a huge advantage. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play against Kirk, but either way, after talking to him, the decision was pretty clear.”