LSU can benefit from Australian tour

The LSU Basketball team's ready for its trip down under, one that should help them on and off the court.

The toilets flush in an opposite direction. Steering wheels are on the right sides of cars, and drivers occupy the left sides of streets.

It’ll be a brand new world for the LSU Basketball team when they head down under for an Australian tour in mid-August. For an incoming freshman like Brandon Sampson, who’s never left the continental United States, it may take some adjusting.

“I’m kinda nervous about it,” Sampson said.

Those nerves should clear once he disembarks from the 24-hour plane flight it takes to get there.

His fellow newcomer doesn’t have any hesitations though. This trip will be a homecoming for Ben Simmons, the No. 1 recruit in the country and a native Australian that moved to America early in his high school career. His addition to the team played a part in LSU deciding to schedule this trip.

LSU will travel first to Sydney and play two games against professional teams on Aug. 15-16. Their next stop will be Queensland, where they’ll play again Aug. 18. The final destination takes them to Melbourne for two more games on Aug. 20 and 22.

LSU coach Johnny Jones said having Simmons and assistant coach David Patrick’s connections to Australia helped facilitate this Australian tour.

“It takes work to put those trips together,” Jones said. “We were able to go through those channels because of Coach Patrick’s relationships with people over there. It was a lot easier to take that trip.”

Patrick played professionally in Australia’s National Basketball League for the team located in Melbourne. He teamed there with Simmons’ dad, Dave Simmons, becoming his son’s godfather, a relationship that helped lead him to Baton Rouge.

Now Simmons’ first competitive game in an LSU uniform will take place in his homeland.

“I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” he said. “It’s perfect for me going back home.”

It’s not only perfect for him, but it could be very beneficial for his team.

LSU will get 10 practices starting Aug. 1 before it leaves the country, and unlimited sessions once they arrive. They'll also be playing against professional Australian teams. That’s something only a few college players get to experience.

“It’ll help us a lot, knowing the caliber of guys we’ll be going against in college — bigger, more physical, faster,” Sampson said. “So going against pros will do nothing but prepare us for what we’re heading into.”

Jones cited Kentucky as another reason he wanted to take a team on a foreign trip. The Wildcats spent time abroad before last season, and Jones said he noticed that helped them gel and develop chemistry.

Jones hopes it has that same effect on a team that’ll rely heavily on several newcomers. He also looks forward to experimenting with his new roster and seeing how much last year’s reserves have improved.

“This trip will benefit us because you can experiment,” Jones said. “It won’t go against your RPI. You can look at the depth of your bench and see which of those guys can have an impact for you.”

Simmons will definitely be one of those guys. Most of his teammates have asked what they can expect when they head down under. But Simmons doesn’t want to be a tour guide once they arrive.

He wants to be a tourist too.

“I’m trying to see a lot of stuff for myself,” Simmons said. “We’re going to do touristy things. It’s one of those times where I can actually enjoy it.”

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