Men’s basketball team schedules trip to Italy

Cody Francis

Outside group will sponsor Flashes

The Kent State men’s basketball team will make a 10-day trip starting Aug. 21 to Italy to play against four professional Italian teams.

Laing Kennedy, Kent State director of athletics, said the team is working with a group called Basketball Travelers, Inc., that has agreed to sponsor the team on its trip in return for participation in its tournaments for the next three years.

The NCAA gives the team 10 days to prepare for the trip. Kennedy said the 10-day preparation, set to take place Aug. 10-19, will not be paid for by Basketball Travelers. The athletic department will have to pay up to $6,000 for food and housing for the team, among other costs, for their stay in Kent. Basketball Travelers expects to spend about $14,000 on the trip itself.

Kennedy said the athletic department is willing to fund the preparation because of the amount of national exposure the team and school will receive.

“For the opportunity to play in Italy and to participate in tournaments for two more years, when you’re dealing at our level, the mid-major level, that is significant.

“It really helps in recruiting,” he said. “Getting (to play against) top notch Division I opponents in the exempt tournaments that we would otherwise not get to, getting six (Division I) basketball games and four international games, that’s an excellent rate of return.”

Kent State coach Geno Ford said NCAA rules prohibit contact with players during the summer, so this trip is going to be “unbelievably beneficial” for getting the team prepared for the season.

“Players are going to be required to bond, not only in town practicing by ourselves, but being gone for 10 days in a foreign country benefits the team chemistry, which is why teams have had success in past from doing international trips, like Cleveland State did last year,” he said.

Ford was referring to the trip to Spain that Cleveland State took in August 2008, during which it played four Spanish club teams. The Vikings went on to win the Horizon League and earned their first NCAA tournament bid in 23 years.

All NCAA teams are eligible for similar trips every four years, and Ford said the Flashes have been eligible for two years, but decided to wait until now to take advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about for the last couple of years,” he said. “The NCAA only allows returning players to participate, and this year we have 10 returning, six of which are seniors, and with a 13-man roster those are huge numbers.

“If we waited another year, when we lose those six seniors, we only take seven, so timing-wise, it’s an ideal time for us to go.”

Both Ford and Kennedy said trips like this are vital to keeping Kent State as a top-100 program.

“It’s one of those things that a lot of the top-100 programs try to utilize,” Ford said. “That’s a main reason you want to do it, when you get the most out of it not only from an education standpoint, but also on the floor. It keeps our program operating on the level of a top-100 program, and that’s something we’ve been able to sustain for over a decade.”

Contact editor Cody Francis at [email protected].