When Matt Doherty took over the basketball program at Southern Methodist University he envisioned a summer trip for his Mustangs.
"One of the first things that my athletic director Steve Orsini asked me when I brought up this trip was, is this what Top 25 programs in the country do?" Coach Doherty told PonyStampede.com Friday afternoon in an exclusive interview. "I told him that is exactly what top programs in the country do."
Doherty and his Mustangs began practice this past Monday and according to the third year SMU head coach, this has been no summer vacation for his players.
"We are definitely keeping them busy," Doherty said. "This has been a great week of practice for our team."
The eight returning players for SMU have kept a busy schedule. Two classes, two study halls and two practices are part of the daily regiment that the Mustangs have endured to prepare for next week's trip to Africa.
"I'm really pleased with the improvement everyone has made since March," Doherty said. "Everyone has improved individually and I feel that we have gotten better as a team."
Doherty is also impressed with the physical shape of his team.
"The guys are in really great shape," Doherty said. "We are working hard in practice. It does have a different feel to it especially since it's summer time. We are still going hard in every practice."
Doherty feels that the extra 20 days of practices and games will definitely benefit his squad come this fall. The veteran basketball coach feels that it will bring his team even closer together as a group. The extra twenty days of practice won't effect the number of practices the Mustangs can have in the fall.
"It's a great team building activity," Doherty noted. "We are already a pretty tight group, but I feel this will bring us closer together. Getting to see the home country of three of our players through their eyes will definitely be a learning experience for all involved. It's a win/win situation for our team, we don't lose anything in the fall because of it."
Doherty is very pleased with his team's performance so far this week.
"I couldn't have asked for a better week of practice," Doherty said. "It's been a great week for SMU basketball and the next 12 days will only make things better."
While Doherty is focused on using the 12 day trip as an educational and team building exercise, he admits that he hopes his team will perform well in next week's exhibition games.
"Of course I want to win the games," Doherty said. "At the end of the day if we have gotten better as a team, then everything was worth it."
The squad leaves on May 25 for a 12-day tour that includes stays in Senegal and South Africa . The squad is practicing on campus at the Crum Basketball Center and will be taking an anthropology class called People of Africa. The student-athletes will keep journals during this unique trip which will be chronicled at SMUMustangs.com.
The basketball trip from May 25 to June 5 will include a safari as well as tours of Johannesburg , South Africa , and Dakar , Senegal . The Mustangs in partnership with Adidas will perform coaching and skills clinics in each city. The Ponies will also play exhibition games against the national teams of Senegal and South Africa with an additional game against the SEEDS Academy in Senegal.
Anyone wanting to help with the cost of this trip can contact the Men's Basketball office at SMU at 214-768-3501.
"We have done a good job of raising funds for this trip," Doherty said. "We aren't done yet, we still have a ways to go, but I'm confident it will be worth all the hard work."