PROVO — So how is the BYU basketball program preparing for life without Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery?
By taking a trip to Greece.
While the Cougars, who depart Monday, will do some sightseeing overseas, the main purpose of the long journey is to get themselves ready for the upcoming 2010-11 season.
"It's a good opportunity for our team to go out there and play together, get some time together before the season starts to work on some things and get guys acclimated to the program," said senior forward Charles Abouo.
BYU has held 10 practices this month to prepare for its five-game tour in Greece. The Cougars will play against professional teams in Athens and Platanias.
"There's going to be some tough teams, obviously with a different style and a different way of playing," said senior Noah Hartsock. "Overall, we're just focused on how we're going to play. I think it's going to be big for some players who didn't get to play a lot this year to get some playing time so they can develop and get ready for this upcoming year."
The Cougars are hoping forward Brandon Davies, who was suspended last March due to an honor code violation, will be able to rejoin the team in the fall. Davies withdrew from school in the spring, and was planning to re-enroll.
While newcomers like freshman guard DeMarcus Harrison, a top-100 recruit from Christ School in North Carolina, and Utah transfer Josh Sharp will be joining the team for its trip to Greece, guard Matt Carlino will not be able to play due to NCAA transfer rules. While Carlino, who transferred from UCLA last winter, has been practicing with the Cougars for months, he won't be eligible to play until mid-December. Meanwhile, forward Chris Collinsworth will be sidelined as he recovers from knee surgery.
Abouo, Hartsock, and juniors Stephen Rogers, Brock Zylstra and Nick Martineau are the returning players with the most experience. They'll also be joined by freshman guard Anson Winder, who redshirted last season, and junior guard Craig Cusick, who was on the practice squad a year ago.
"It's a really exciting time for our new players that haven't played before and have an opportunity to get used to how we do things," said coach Dave Rose. "There are quite a few players who won't be going with us that will be in camp in the fall. But this trip gives guys a chance to play quality minutes and have an opportunity to go from a different role they played last year to whatever role they acquire on this year's team."
When they're not playing basketball, they'll take some tours of the country, and hold a fireside, among other things.
"It's an opportunity to experience a different culture and learn about the world," Rogers said. "A lot of us haven't been out of the country or done anything like it. We're excited to learn basketball things as well as life experiences."
"It's a fun trip for us and a learning experience. I'm really excited about it," said Hartsock. "We've had 10 days of practice and it gives us a leg up on the competition, just getting the team together and practicing and understanding our system."
It should be a good bonding experience for the Cougars.2 comments on this story
"We're already a close-knit group. It will be good to get over there," Zylstra said. "We've lost some seniors. It will be a good time to come together as a team."
BYU is coming off of one of its best seasons ever, as the Cougars won 32 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The big task for Rose and his staff is to overcome the departure of its formidable backcourt duo of Fredette — the consensus national player of the year and first-round draft pick of the Sacramento Kings — and Emery.
"We'll miss both of those guys," Rose said, "but we're looking forward to the challenge without them."