From a player's standpoint, the trip to Australia was an outstanding opportunity for them to experience another country. What made it extra special was that these guys have three teammates: James (Hunter), Brock (Motum), and Dexter (Kernich-Drew), who are from that country. And so I think it naturally helps them connect with those guys better, just having a good understanding of their background and where they're from, and a real appreciation of Australia and that country. There were numerous places to see whether it was the Opera House (Sydney) or the Great Barrier Reef (Cairns)...cool places like the zoo...and I think the guys really enjoyed those excursions that we took on, along with the games. I think the games were an experience in themselves as we played in small arenas, but most of the time great crowds with a lot of enthusiasm and I felt like the players enjoyed those atmospheres. Even though they were small crowds, they were fun games.
From a basketball standpoint, I am very pleased with how the guys performed the last game. We didn't always play great but we had good moments throughout the trip. But that last game was against probably the best team we played during the tour, in front of a small but loud hostile crowd against a big, strong, physical NBL (National Basketball League) team which is one of the top teams over there with some great players. I loved the way the guys approached and competed in the game playing down to the last few seconds and I think that that type of game could really lead into the fall workouts and hopefully our season.
I personally enjoyed the time that we coaches spent with the players in a sense of non-competitive time where the pressures aren't real high for any of us. Yeah we want to compete well in those games, but other than that it was a time to kind of relax and have a good time and spend time together. It was good to be able to connect with a number of guys over a 12-13 day period and just take your coaching hat of and be more of a friend and just communicate with these guys. So I really enjoyed that part, and like any coach I enjoyed the few games that we did have. It is always nice to go out and compete.
The one regret I have is the short period of time we spent in Cairns. If I ever were to go back to Australia, I would make sure I would go back there. I thought that was a beautiful place, really laid back, but it would be a fun place to spend some more time. While we were in Cairns though, we were able to catch up with Aron Baynes as soon as he got back from the Olympics in London. It was great that he spent his first night with us and we all appreciated him coming straight from the airport to have dinner with us. It was great for everyone - coaches, players and staff - to catch up with Aron and learn more about his Olympics experience and what it was like playing against Team USA. One of our assistant coaches, Ben Johnson, used to coach in Cairns as well, so it was great that he got to see a lot of his friends and family. What was really fun was seeing photos of him during his playing days, when he was 20 pounds lighter and 20 years younger, that were hung up in the hallway of the gym we played our final game in.
All in all these are great opportunities from an educational standpoint, and a bonding standpoint for teams to take advantage of going on these foreign tours once every four years. I am really appreciative that we were able to do this and I think we all benefitted from it. I really feel like this could lead into the season as we know a little more about the guys here in late August than we normally do, and they have a better feel for us, because we do have a lot of new guys on the team. There are just so many advantages in being able to go on a trip like this and I think we will all benefit from the experience.