Basketball Bulldogs To Play Labor Day Tour

The basketball Bulldogs believed that they would have to wait until mid-October to begin formal team preparations for the 2006-07 season. Not so. Come this Friday, Coach Rick Stansbury will have his players out on the practice court getting ready to play actual ball games in the first weekend of September.

Stansbury confirmed Tuesday that the Bulldogs have contracted to play a Labor Day weekend tour in Vancouver, B.C. State will play three games in two days, September 2-3, against Canadian professional and club teams. The results will not count on the record.

"Under the NCAA's exempt rule, teams that aren't in pre-season exempt tournaments can take a ‘Labor Day break tour'," Stansbury said. "The key for us is we get ten days of practice over a 14-day period." Those practices will begin this Friday, August 18 at Humphrey Coliseum. The team could have begun these workouts a day earlier except the Coliseum office had previously scheduled an event for that Thursday. The Coliseum is not under athletic department control.

Stansbury said that the Bulldogs will depart for Vancouver two weeks from Friday. "We'll have two games on Saturday and one on Sunday, then come back Monday." The coach did not have the names of the actual opponents at hand, but that is beside the point in State's case.

"The competition isn't very good. The reason everybody does it is for the practice. That's a huge thing. It's great for me with this young team." Considering that as of now State only has two seniors and a lone junior veteran to go with a total of nine sophomores or freshmen on the roster, these early practice days and the games against older pros are priceless experience both individually and collectively. The Bulldogs, most of whom have been playing pickup games since early July, can now be coached for-real for these ten days.

"It's a great time for a young team," Stansbury said, "to get these extra days of practice in. Especially because this year the NCAA moved the season up a week but left the start of practice (October 15) the same date."

Mississippi State won't be the only American college club in British Columbia for the first fall holiday weekend. Stansbury said schools such as Louisville and Arizona will be in the area, some playing in the same venue. They cannot play each other but naturally everyone will be taking the measure of their peers and comparing notes and scores with an eye towards March Madness 2007.

Stansbury first mentioned the possibility of this Labor Day weekend trip to media back in July at the Central Mississippi Extravaganza. At the time he said State was looking at either Vancouver or Costa Rica as the holiday destination, with the same number of games and practice dates for either choice. The deciding factor?

"We were thinking about the possibility of hurricanes. We knew for sure there would be no problems with Vancouver. Plus this is a good trip, the weather up there this time of year is beautiful. I made a trip there a long time ago."

But of course this is a working trip for the players and coaches alike. Once back on campus, the still-young Bulldogs will have a better idea of how they measure up collectively and to each other. For their part the staff will have far more first-hand information on the personnel and combinations, especially with the four freshmen players, than normal for September.

"It will be good for the young kids. And it lets us do what we want to do, coach basketball early," Stansbury said. "Then we'll have five weeks before the start of (preseason) practices to make adjustments."

The new season begins at home November 11.

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