CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s basketball team plans to make its business a pleasure over the next 10 days.
Following a brief practice, a bus trip to Minneapolis and a flight to Amsterdam, the Panthers headed to Italy where they will play three games and take in as much of the rich history and culture of the European nation as they can squeeze in.
“It’s really about the time together, the opportunity to see a different part of the world and experience some of their culture and then spend some time interacting and talking basketball with some of their club teams and coaches and our players maybe being able to have an impact from a basketball standpoint with any clinic-type stuff,” said UNI head coach Ben Jacobson.
“Our team being together and experiencing those things together ... that’s the greatest benefit of this trip.”
NCAA rules allow one preseason trip overseas every four years, but it’s been at least six since the Panthers went to Brazil.
Almost as valuable as the experience are the 10 extra practices that go along with such trips.
“Those have been valuable for us,” said Jacobson. “We get a lot of access to our players in the summer even without the foreign trip now with the way the rules are written, but when you can tack on 10 practices that is very valuable to our team.”
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UNI will play club teams in Verona, Vinenza and Rome. The Panthers will also plan to see the sights in Milan, Venice and Florence.
“The games are really secondary or even third or fourth on the list when it comes to what we can accomplish on this trip,” noted Jacobson, who will take his entire roster of players including newcomers to the program.
“We’re going to play hard and run our stuff and play the way we want to play when we get back here to start practice. We’re going to play competitively and play to win, absolutely.”
That said, Jacobson cautions fans about reading too much into the boxscores.
“I hope they don’t read too much into who plays how many minutes or who scores what,” he said. “There are going to be games for each of our players. To get 14 or 15 guys valuable playing time there are going to be games where three or four guys don’t even play.”
Two players will make the trip but won’t play. Incoming freshman Cole Henry of Oskaloosa is recovering from knee surgery and won’t be doing much until mid-September while freshman Evan Gauger is out with a thumb injury.