HIGHLAND — Lone Peak junior-to-be Frank Jackson thought his coach, Quincy Lewis, was joking at first.
Sure, Lone Peak, and its congruent AAU team, Utah Reign, has taken part in tournaments all over the country over the past few seasons. But the team’s trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, this coming weekend will break new ground — and mileage records.
Utah Reign, which is essentially the summer league version of Lone Peak, will be participating in the MPAC Elite International basketball tournament, joining powerhouse programs Simeon (Illinois), Montverde Academy (Florida) and Huntington Prep (West Virginia) in the seven-day event that begins June 16.
The four teams will square off against one another, and they'll also face teams from North Africa and the Middle East.
Lone Peak’s invite came by virtue of being named the MaxPreps national champion for the 2012-13 season.
“It’s crazy thinking we’re going all the way to Dubai,” Jackson said. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to improve as a team and to prove ourselves on a big stage. We love the opportunity and it should be an amazing experience.”
Jackson and Co. have researched what they can about Dubai, but no one knows exactly what they’ll encounter.
“I honestly have no clue what it will exactly be like,” said Lewis. “I know the place has some amazing architecture and some things we can experience that we’ll probably never be able to for the rest of our lives. We’re very excited and grateful for the chance to be involved in what should be an amazing experience.”
The team will fly to Atlanta Thursday before embarking on an all-expense-paid flight to Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. The complete trip will last 17 hours, and after a day to hopefully acclimate to its new exotic surroundings, the team will hit the hardwood for its first game.
Fortunately, playing games in big-time tournaments is something Lewis is very familiar with.
“We’ll definitely need to be at our best to have a chance against those teams,” Lewis said. “I mean, you could go around the country and not likely pick any tougher three opponents than what we’ll be facing. It’s going to be challenging enough to adjust to everything, but then the games — those games will likely be the toughest we’ve played here and the guys know that.”
Jackson agrees with his coach regarding the competition, but is confident the squad will play well.
“We have a lot of faith in Coach Lewis and I don’t think there’s a better coach out there that could prepare us for this,” he said. “I also have a lot of confidence in my teammates and feel we have a chance to be as good as we were last season.”
Jackson himself carries a lot of expectations heading into Dubai and the subsequent season. Only a junior, the 6-foot-2 BYU commit has been named a top prospect by ESPN, Scout and Rivals. This weekend he has the opportunity to prove he can play against the very best.
“You always want the opportunity to prove yourself and this tournament offers that,” Jackson said. “I have a bigger role this year and I’m looked at to be the primary scorer a lot of the time. I’m excited to prove myself in that role.”
“You always want opportunities to play against the very best and this tournament offers that along with many other things,” Lewis added. “We’re still finding out what kind of team we’re going to be this year, but I think this tournament will help with a lot of that. We’re very excited to get there and get going.”