It’s an opportunity the NCAA allows college teams only once every four years, and the New Mexico men’s basketball team will take advantage of it.
Ten Lobos and the coaching staff departed Albuquerque late Friday afternoon for a three-game tour in Australia. They will meet up with guard Hugh Greenwood and forward Cameron Bairstow, two Lobos who are already in their home country for the summer break.
UNM plays its first game of the tour Tuesday in Sydney against the Sydney Kings. The Lobos will follow that up with a Thursday game against the South East Australian Basketball All-Stars in Melbourne and an Aug. 11 game against the Queensland All-Stars in Brisbane.
The difference between the Australian and Mountain time zones is 16 hours. The first two games tip off at 7 p.m. local time, or 3 a.m. Mountain Time, while the third game is at 5 p.m. local time, or 1 a.m. here.
“It’ll be a good opportunity for us to team-bond in a different place,” UNM senior guard Kendall Williams said. “A bunch of new guys, we’re bringing back some guys so I think it’ll be a good way to get away from everything and go play basketball in a different way. It’s the start of a new thing.”
According to NCAA Bylaw 30.7.4, “An institution shall not engage in a foreign tour in each sport more than once every four years.” Article 30 in the NCAA rulebook limits the number of basketball games in a foreign tour to 10.
The trip will cost the team an estimated $125,000, Deputy Athletic Director Tim Cass said Thursday afternoon. To cover the cost, Cass said UNM will use funds received from two games the Lobos will play this upcoming season.
The Dec. 14 Kansas City Shootout game against Kansas gives UNM $90,000 while the MGM Grand Showcase contest in Las Vegas nets the Lobos another $35,000. The Lobos play Marquette in that Dec. 21 game.
There will be some differences from regular American collegiate basketball.
For one, the games will feature an NBA-style 24-second shot clock as opposed to the 35 seconds granted per possession in college. The court dimensions and 3-point line are 1 foot narrower, the free-throw lane is 4 feet wider, and games consist of four 10-minute quarters.
With the trip, UNM was allowed to hold practice sessions this week and the team worked with those differences. Blue tape on the Rudy Davalos Center’s practice gymnasium marked the international lines and the Lobos worked on speeding up their possessions to account for the shot-clock change.
“It’s a lot quicker, 11 seconds quicker, so it’s a little bit different. Our guys are getting used to it,” coach Craig Neal said after Wednesday’s practice. “They’re getting adjusted, so it’s one of those things it’s going to help us get up and down the floor and try to get into things faster. I think that’ll help us for the year.”
Bairstow will see limited minutes for UNM because he will be trying out for the Australian national team Aug. 7-10, Neal said. Bairstow saw significant time playing, about 22 minutes per game, in Australia’s second-place run at the World University Games last month. He averaged 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds
Incoming players Obij Aget and Deshawn Delaney will not make the trip since they are not currently at UNM but three new players – transfer Arthur Edwards and freshmen Cullen Neal and Tim Myles – will be in Australia with the team. Neal said they are already jelling with the veterans from last year’s squad.
“Basketball-wise, I guess they’re a little better than advertised,” Neal said. “They’re going to fit in a little better than we thought and (the team is) excited about having them. Hopefully we can get the two new guys here soon so they can get adjusted in August.”