Cats announce 'Big Blue Bahamas' tour

Kentucky revealed plans for its long-anticipated summer basketball exhibition trip on Friday, announcing the "Big Blue Bahamas" tour to be played August 10-17 in Nassau.

The Wildcats will play international squads from the Dominican Republic, France and Puerto Rico during the tour. The NCAA allows teams to play in a foreign tour every four years.

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UK will play the Dominican Republic national team, the Puerto Rico national team reserves and the French first-division club team Champagne-Chalons-Reims Basket twice each over an eight-day span at Nassau's 2,500-seat Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium.

"We are excited to make the trip to the Bahamas for our foreign tour," UK head coach John Calipari said. "… My goal is for our team to grow together, to learn about one another, to have fun and to compete against teams that will stretch us out. These teams should be a challenge that will let us really see where we are at this point. But again, learning and having fun will be the emphasis of the trip. It's another opportunity for us to fail fast."

The Cats will open the tour on Sunday, Aug. 10, against the Puerto Rico reserves at 5 p.m. ET. The next day, UK will face Champagne Chalons-Reim Basket at 1 p.m. ET. On Tuesday, Aug. 12, Calipari's squad will play the Puerto Rico reserves for a second time at 1 p.m. ET.

After a day off on Wednesday, Aug. 13, UK will face the Dominican Republic on Aug. 14 at 5 p.m. ET. A second game against the French squad will be played either Aug. 15 or Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. ET, which will be announced at a later date. The tour wraps with a noon tipoff against the Dominican Republic on Sunday, Aug. 17.

The trip will provide Calipari with a chance to bring his team together well in advance of the typical practice dates as they blend in four newcomers – freshmen Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Karl Towns Jr. – with many returning players from last year's NCAA runner-up squad.

Kentucky last took a foreign exhibtion tour prior to the 2010-11 season. The Cats played in Canada that year and finished the season in the Final Four.

The Dominican Republic team, coached by former UK assistant and new South Florida coach Orlando Antigua, will use the games against UK as a tune-up for its appearance in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will follow in late August. That team includes former Cat Eloy Vargas and former Louisville standouts Edgar Sosa and Francisco Garcia. UK signee Towns also played with the national team during World Cup qualifying.

"The Bahamas Basketball Federation is delighted to have a team such as Kentucky embrace our shores," said Bahamas Basketball Federation Vice President Mario Bowleg. "We know that Kentucky will bring a high level of basketball performance with lots of excitement for our Bahamian basketball fans to experience. We take this opportunity to thank Ms. Lea Miller and her team, whom have worked closely with the Federation, to bring such an elite group to our shores, not just to play basketball but to bond as a unit and experience paradise all at the same time."

Fan travel packages for Kentucky's Big Blue Bahamas tour will be available. For more information, visit ukfantravel.com. To book travel packages, please call 1-855-UKBBALL (1-855-852-2255). Only those who book through the Big Blue Bahamas tour travel company will have access to tickets.

Television and radio plans are not currently available for the games, but UK is working with its broadcast partners to finalize details.

KENTUCKY BIG BLUE TOUR SCHEDULE
(all games at Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium)

Sunday, August 10: Puerto Rico Reserve Team................................... 5 pm ET
Monday, August 11: Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket.................. 1 pm ET
Tuesday, August 12: Puerto Rico Reserve Team................................... 1 pm ET
Wednesday, August 13: OFF DAY
Thursday, August 14: Dominican Republic National Team................... 5 pm ET
Friday/Saturday, August 15/16: Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket.................. 1 pm ET
Sunday, August 17: Dominican Republic National Team................... Noon ET


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