August Trip A Bonding Time For WVU Hoops

Every four years, NCAA Basketball teams are permitted to travel outside the country and play games prior to their regular seasons. Conventional wisdom holds that the extra play and practice produces great on-court benefits for those teams in their regular seasons, but that's not the biggest plus, according to one WVU coach.

"The trip is very beneficial, but it's from the standpoint of team bonding and getting guys to know each other, especially our new guys," associate head coach Larry Harrison said. "We'll give them a little bit of offense and defense, but we won't give them a whole lot. It's more of a bonding trip, for guys to get to know each other and how they'll play. We're not going to go in full scale practice like we do in October."

Of course, those benefits do play into team development. The trip, along with the allowable ten practices prior to the week-long journey, will give the players the chance to get used to the games of the newcomers, see how they fit together, and begin to identify roles. Some of that can be done during summer workouts and during the short time each week that coaches are allowed to work with four-player groups before the official start of fall practice, but the chance for them to all be on the court together is something that can't be ignored.

Still, the biggest benefits, in the eyes of the coaching staff, will come from the players getting more in-depth knowledge about each other, both on and off the court. It's not that Devin Williams doesn't know Esa Ahmad or that Jevon Carter isn't familiar with James Bolden, but rather that they'll have the chance to be together for an extended period. It's in those times that team-building can really occur.

Head coach Bob Huggins implemented a plan improve on the cohesiveness of his team after a couple of seasons were marred by a lack of team unity, and the Bahamas trip will fit in neatly with that program. A year ago, he took his team to a coal mine and had them participate in a charity softball game, just to name two. The results are tough to argue with, as the Mountaineers rose from a first-round NIT flameout to a Sweet 16 appearance.

As with all good things, thought, too much can be a bad thing, so the coaching staff has modified the team's summer schedule this year to give the team some time off. Had it not done so, the 2015-16 team would have been playing and practicing non-stop from June through March.

"One thing we did this year that we didn't do prior to our previous trip was that we gave the guys the first three weeks of summer school off," Harrison noted. "When we come back from the Bahamas, school starts, so we didn't want them to be here all summer and then have to be right back [on the practice court] and be here all year. We're doing that to try to reduce the burnout."

WVU is scheduled to arrive in the Bahamas on Aug. 8. There will be time for relaxation, sightseeing and a couple of light workouts before playing games on Aug. 11, 12 and 14. The team will then return home in time for the start of the fall semester, which is Mon. Aug. 17.

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