WSU Hoops is headed Down Under

WASHINGTON STATE'S basketball team is headed Down Under. The Cougars' men's team will travel to Australia early next month for an international tour, WSU announced Thursday in a press release.

The Cougs will depart Pullman Aug. 3, arriving in Melbourne on Aug. 5. The jam-packed tour will take the Cougars to four different areas; Melbourne (Aug. 5-8), Sydney (Aug. 8-12), Brisbane/Gold Coast (Aug. 12-14) and Cairns (pronounced Cans) (Aug. 14-16).

Highlights include games against the National Basketball League's (NBL) Melbourne Tigers (Aug. 7 in Melbourne), the Wollongong Hawks (Aug. 10 in Sydney) and the Cairns Taipans (Aug. 14 in Cairns).

The Tigers represent the state of Victoria and have won four NBL Championships, the most recent in 2008. Out of South Wales, the Hawks won one NBL Championship in 2001 and are two-time runners-up, most recently in 2010. The Taipans have were runners-up in 2011.

The Cougars will also play games against the North Invitational Team, an ABA (Australian Basketball Association) squad which is currently second in the conference, along with some NBL players to improve the strength of the team, (Aug. 9 – Sydney) and the Brisbane Spartans of the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) (Aug. 13 – Gold Coast).

Besides the five games, the Cougars will get a full culture experience along the way. Although still in the planning stages tours of the Old Melbourne Gaol, the Sydney Opera House, Steve Erwin's Crocodile Hunter Zoo, and a visit to the Great Barrier Reef are planned.

"Not only will we have a great opportunity to compete against elite international competition, but we will also have the chance to really experience Australia and different cultures," said head coach Ken Bone in the release. "With three Australians on our team, I think it will be very special for the guys to see more about where their teammates are from, as it will be great for the Aussies to make a trip home and play in front of family and friends.

"I really think this trip is going to help us as a team as we get to know each other better both on and off the court. I can't thank (athletic director) Bill Moos enough for this opportunity."

The NCAA allows teams to travel overseas for a summer tour once every four years. Washington State most recently toured Australia and New Zealand in the June of 2007, the summer between NCAA Tournament appearances under then-head coach Tony Bennett.

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