We returned home from our 10-day trip to Australia on Saturday. Overall I'd say it was a fantastic experience not only for our team but the many enthusiastic boosters who decided to make the trip.
Our team went 4-2 in the six games there. We probably couldn't have gotten more out of it on the court than we did. Four of the six games went down to the final minute.
We also were able to see a number of memorable sights as well including the famed Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef, regarded as one of the seven wonders of the natural world. We were very fortunate to view the Great Barrier Reef during one of the 20 days a year that it rises above the water because of low tide. You could see it going on for thousands of miles and it truly was an awesome sight. A handful of players got to snorkel there. The water was sparkling clear and it was a great experience for all.
Nine players made the trip but one of them, center Matt Shaw, did not play because of a knee injury that will require surgery later this month. Here are some of the highlights for the eight other plays:
Guard Wink Adams, a returning all-Mountain West Conference first team selection, did what we've come to expect him to do. He had some very good stretches and really put pressure on opponents. I think he's done a nice job this spring and so far this summer of putting himself in a position to have a big senior year.
Because of Matt's injury, Joe Darger split his time on the trip at center and also at his more natural wing spot. He shot it well the last couple of games and also rebounded well for us.
I thought senior guard Mo Rutledge really took advantage of his opportunity to play and shot the ball well and with a lot of confidence on the trip.
The fourth of our returning seniors, Rene Rougeau, played his typical game and really filled up the stat sheet on most nights. You know what you are going to get with Rene. No matter if it is a game in Australia or a pickup contest in the gym, Rene is always going to play hard and with enthusiasm. The trip gave him a chance to get a head start on playing the three spot for us next season.
Sophomore guard Kendall Wallace had a couple of games where he really shot the ball well and that is something he really needed to do.
Another guard, walk-on Scott Hoffman, also shot the ball well and played hard and with a lot of enthusiasm.
The trip may have been most beneficial for our two redshirts, 7-foot center Beas Hamga and sophomore point guard Tre'Von Willis, both of whom got six games of experience under their belts with their new teammates.
I think since practice started on June 10 for this trip that Beas has made huge strides with his game. The expectations for him are so high but it does take time for big guys to come along. Our message to Beas is for him to continue make as much progress each month as he has this past month and he'll continue to get better and better.
Tre'Von made some really good strides during the trip. It was the first time he had played in a game in over a year and also the first time he had played point guard at the college level. Like Beas he is still a work in progress but being able to have six games running the club at point guard was a huge plus. It's a tough adjustment and takes time.
My staff and I barely had time to catch our breaths after we touched down because a major evaluation period for recruiting began on Sunday. Most of the rest of July will be spent in gyms around the country evaluating prospective recruits. We already have commitments from two players for the Class of 2009 and that leaves us with two more scholarship offers to hand out. However, since we currently have just one scholarship available for the class of 2010 there is a chance we could hold one of those scholarships to try and balance the classes out.
It won't be long before practice starts up again on Oct. 17. We open our home schedule on Nov. 15 against a very tough San Diego squad that returns all five starters from a team that won a game in the NCAA Tournament and defeated Kentucky in Lexington a year ago. We currently have several good season ticket plans available that I would strongly encourage you to check out because there has been an unusually strong demand for them this summer, especially our special $90 season ticket package in the balcony.
And be sure to check out my column again in Rebel Nation that begins its third year of publication on Aug. 28.
Coach's Corner with Lon Kruger
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