Hoiberg Hopes Italian Trip Will Be Beneficial
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State head men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg faces an unusual task of incorporating nine new players who have never appeared in a Cyclone uniform onto next year's squad. It's a daunting chore to say the least, but Hoiberg and the Cyclones will get a head start for 2011-12 thanks to a competitive foreign trip to Italy this summer.
The Cyclones will spend 11 days (Aug. 9-19) on their Italian excursion, playing 4-5 games vs. local professional club teams. The Iowa State contingent will start its tour in Milan and will also have overnight stays in Florence and Rome. Iowa State's competitive schedule for the tour won't be finalized until July.
The opportunity to visit an exotic foreign country is a chance of a lifetime for the players and support staff. But Hoiberg views it in a different light. The second-year Cyclone mentor is eager to take advantage of 10 extra days of practice before leaving the U.S. and watching his squad gain valuable experience vs. top-notch competition.
"This trip will definitely give us a head start," Hoiberg said. "I think a lot of questions will be answered heading into October. We will see who will step up and emerge as a leader after losing some leadership from last year's team. The big thing is the 10 extra days of practice. We will be able to start putting in our philosophies and getting our team to learn how we are going to play a little sooner."
Iowa State hasn't participated in a foreign trip since the summer of 2004 when the team took a brief two-game tour of Mexico. The Cyclones advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season (2004-05), the last time Iowa State qualified for the Big Dance. Teams are allowed one summer foreign trip every four years under NCAA rules.
Like in 2004, Iowa State will take its trip in August to allow all incoming players (freshmen and transfers) the chance to travel and compete with the team. Iowa State newcomers Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Anthony Odunsi and Tavon Sledge are all scheduled to take classes in the summer bridge program at Iowa State.
Hoiberg doesn't underestimate the importance of getting his newcomers a preview of the season.
"That's huge for us," Hoiberg added. "Those guys are going to be a big part of our team next year. Korie will have to sit out next season, but he will still be able to go over with us. It's going to give everyone a head start. Freshmen normally go through a learning period and this will definitely put them ahead of schedule compared to other freshmen."
Cyclone fans have been anticipating the debut of the four transfers (Chris Allen, Chris Babb, Anthony Booker and Royce White), who all sat out last season as redshirts, for almost a year. Hoiberg tutored the redshirts daily in practice last season and is just as anxious to see how they will perform donning the Cardinal and Gold for the first time.
"I am really looking forward to seeing the redshirts in action," Hoiberg said. "Those guys were performing all last year without any pressure, playing free and running the other teams' sets. I am excited to see them run our sets. They haven't done a lot of that. We basically asked them in practice to run the opposing teams' plays and they picked it up very quickly. I anticipate all of them going to Italy with a lot to prove and playing hungry."
While Hoiberg has stressed the business side of the trip, there will be optimal opportunities for exploring the gorgeous and historic Italian landscape. While in Milan, the Cyclones will visit beautiful Lake Como and will take in all of the historic sites in Florence and Rome.
"Part of my job in the NBA the last couple of years was making an annual trip to Italy and watching a big Euro camp," Hoiberg said. "I absolutely loved it. It's a beautiful country. I have spent time at the Vatican, which is an unbelievable site. This will be something these kids will never forget. Just to have the chance to walk around the colosseum, where the greatest battles of all-time took place, is amazing. It will be a trip of a lifetime. For some of these guys it may be the only time they leave the United States."
Hoiberg also relishes the wonderful opportunity for his squad to come together as a team.
"It gives us a great chance to bond as a team and start building our chemistry earlier than we normally would," said Hoiberg. "We are really looking forward to it."