August 10, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
While the K-State women's basketball team left yesterday for a 10-day, three-game trip to Italy, they weren't the only Wildcats headed to Europe. Three men's basketball players - senior guard Will Spradling, junior forward Thomas Gipson and freshman guard Jevon Thomas - are taking trips of their own to improve their games and gain extra experience before the season begins.
Spradling arrived in Belgium on Aug. 6, and won't be back in Kansas until Aug. 16. The Overland Park, Kan., native will play in five games during his trip with Global Sports Academy beginning with two games in Brussels, Belgium, and, after a day of sightseeing in London, finish with a trip to the Netherlands playing games in Amsterdam, Ghent and Antwerp.
Spradling said he was planning on taking a summer class this month, however when he found out the class he wanted was unavailable, he jumped at the opportunity to travel overseas and play basketball when it presented itself.
With a strong background in traveling abroad for basketball during his years as a Wildcat, Spradling is now excited to add Belgium, England and the Netherlands to his list.
"I'm excited. I loved the trip I took during my sophomore year," Spradling said, who traveled to Kosovo and Macedonia with the group Athletes in Action during the summer of 2011. "Then we took a trip to Brazil as a team last year. They've all been very good experiences."
Gipson and Thomas arrived in Macon, Ga., on Aug. 6 and, after spending three days training at Mercer University, they are now on their way to Lithuania.
The two joined Athletes in Action and will play six games during their 13-day trip.
"I'm looking forward to seeing new things and being in another country," Gipson said, "grasping that experience of playing overseas, even if it's just a week or so. It's good to have the experience, so I know what I'd do if I wanted to play overseas or go pro."
Gipson and Thomas' first three games will take place in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, on August 11, 12 and 13. After a day off, the trip will finish with a final three games, all taking place in the city of Klaipeda on August 15, 16 and 17.
Coaching Gipson and Thomas' team with Athletes in Action is Valparaiso assistant coach Roger Powell. Powell played under K-State head coach Bruce Weber at Illinois from 2001-05, and Gipson said the fact Weber knew and spoke highly of Powell played into his decision to take the summer trip.
"Coach Weber introduced me to going (to Lithuania)," Gipson explained. "It was either Lithuania or the Dominican Republic, and I asked him what he thought I should do. He said Lithuania. The head coach of our team, (Coach Weber) used to coach him back at Illinois. I think it's just a good opportunity."
While both Spradling and Gipson have traveled overseas with the K-State Basketball program, the trip to Lithuania will be Thomas' first time out of the United States.
"It's a good experience," Thomas said. "There aren't a lot of chances for me to go out the country, and I've never been out of the country before, so I'm just going to go out there and play some different basketball. It'll be a great experience."
For Gipson and Thomas, the trip to Lithuania will mean even more than solely learning new styles of play and seeing new places - the two will have the opportunity to play together on the court before the 2013-14 season begins.
"The best bond should be a point guard and his big man," Thomas explained. "I do a lot of pick and rolls. I think the point guard and his big man should have a good chemistry, a good bond. Getting ready for the season, me and Gip, we already get along great, so I think this should help us both on and off the court and before the season."
Gipson agreed having the opportunity to play and travel with Thomas during the summer prior to the season will only strengthen the already strong bond the two share.
"We are very excited. It'll give us a chance beforehand to play with each other, to get a feel for each other," Gipson said. "I mean, he is my point guard. He'll be my point guard next year, so it'll be nice to play with him. I think of him as a little brother. Jevon's new to the whole atmosphere of this town and we kind of bonded."
While the three will be experiencing new cultures, seeing new places and learning new styles of basketball, they are also thinking about their future after college hoops, and all three agree taking trips like this to play overseas will only help their chances of, one day, playing on a professional court in Europe.
"I think it'll be a good experience because that's what I want to do after college is go and play overseas," Spradling said. "It'll be a good to go over there and see what it's like. Hopefully this will help me get over there."
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