Back in 2013, an offseason trip to Canada proved to be an extremely valuable experience for a University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team in a state of transition.
The Badgers are hoping for similar rewards four years later from a trip to New Zealand and Australia.
UW on Monday announced the details of that trip, which will run from Aug. 12-24 and include five exhibition games.
The Badgers’ first game will be Aug. 15 against the New Zealand Breakers. The Breakers’ roster includes former UW standout Kirk Penney, who has spent the past five seasons of his 15-year professional career playing for his hometown team.
UW will play another game in New Zealand — against Tauranga City Basketball on Aug. 17 — before traveling to Australia. There, the Badgers will play games in Melbourne against Hawthorne on Aug. 19 and Melbourne United a day later. The team’s last game of the trip will be in Sydney on Aug. 22 against the Sydney Kings.
“Being together for so long is just going to be another step in our bonding process,” UW junior center Ethan Happ said last week.
When the Badgers went to Canada for five games in 2013, they were in the midst of replacing three frontcourt starters. The trip gave new starters Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker a chance for valuable reps; it gave Josh Gasser, who was returning from a knee injury that sidelined him the previous season, a chance to work off some rust; and it gave the members of UW’s incoming freshman class, a group that included Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, the opportunity to get their feet wet.
UW players and coaches raved about what the trip to Canada meant for the team’s ability to quickly build chemistry. The Badgers got off to a school-record 16-0 start that season and finished the season with 30 wins and a trip to the Final Four.
Four years later, the Badgers are in the midst of another crucial offseason. UW has to replace four starters from a team that went 27-10.
International trips are allowed every four years by the NCAA, and this one comes at a perfect time as coach Greg Gard and his staff try to figure out roles on a roster filled with inexperience.
UW is allowed 10 extra practices over the summer to get ready for the trip. That extra time is important for returning players stepping into bigger roles as well as UW’s incoming freshman class, which includes guards Kobe King and Brad Davison and forward Nathan Reuvers.
“This experience is going to be so big for so many people, not only the newcomers but also all those guys that now have some daylight in front of them in terms of earning minutes,” Gard said.
“I think every day is just a huge opportunity for all of them.”