SE: Weber, Wildcats Begin Preparation for Trip to Europe

The last time Bruce Weber took a Kansas State team abroad — Brazil, 2012 — the Wildcats’ head coach was brand new to the program and to its players.

The trip paid dynamic dividends, bringing the team closer together and producing invaluable offseason experience en route to winning a share of the Big 12 Championship in Weber’s first season.

Looking back, Weber can still see the impact of the trip. Looking forward, he hopes the trend of his basketball journeys overseas continues.

“I think it had a huge impact. I’ve been very fortunate to make 10, 11, 12 trips in my long journey through coaching, and I would bet in 75 percent or more we maybe won the league or definitely had a successful season,” Weber said. “To play that competition, to deal with the toughness that you have to develop and (to create) the team chemistry is a real positive thing.”

Last Saturday, K-State began preparing for its 10-day trip to Italy and Switzerland in mid-August. The Wildcats used the first of 10 allotted on-campus practices that will be broken up between June, July and August.

The benefits of these trips, which the NCAA allows teams to take once every four years, begin for K-State in the Ice Family Basketball Center but continue to build in magnitude once its plane takes off August 8.

“It’s like spring football. You get 10 days of practice that you normally don’t have, including your new freshmen, so they get acclimated,” Weber said. “We always talk about, ‘Expect the unexpected.’ Traveling overseas, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Foreign travel is only one part of the adversity K-State will face and benefit from, Weber said, in its time in Europe. Additionally, the Wildcats will face off with unknown teams in varying environments with different rules and officials who Weber said commonly brew up some “home cooking” on the court.

“I think that makes it even better because you have some tough situations that you deal with,” said Weber, adding that gyms without air conditioning filled with opposing teams’ fans are other forms of adversity the team may come across. “So you have all those situations. I think those all kind of add up to bringing teams along.”

More specific to basketball, Weber said playing with a 24-second shot clock should help push his team in the right direction offensively.

“One of the emphasis I gave them when they came back was learning to push the ball every time,” he said. “With the 24-second shot clock, we have to get into offense right away and get some quick offensive actions. We can’t just walk up, so I think that will have a positive impact on our guys.”

The Wildcats, led by a deep frontcourt with Wesley Iwundu, Dean Wade and D.J. Johnson, will play five games in 10 days. Sophomore guard Kamau Stokes will return to the floor for K-State after a knee injury sidelined a standout start to his freshman season, while redshirt freshmen Isaiah Maurice (6-foot-10) and Dante Williams (7-foot) will enter the fold as well.

Weber said he expects the high volume of games to help the nine returning lettermen mesh with K-State’s new pieces, including its four incoming freshmen in Xavier Sneed, James Love III, Cartier Diarra and Brian Patrick.

“Usually people play three or four games, and I asked for five,” Weber said. “We have so many guys, I hope a couple of the games we can play all our young guys for a longer, extended amount of time and get everyone a good experience.”

K-State will begin its trip with three days in Rome, where it will play against LCC International University of Klaipeda, Lithuania (August 10) and the BC Silute (August 11). Two days later, the Wildcats will face off with the Italian Select (August 13) team in Tuscany before closing its stay in Italy against the Kosovo National Team (August 16) in Como.

To end the journey, K-State will spend two days in Switzerland as it closes out competition against BBC Lausanne on August 18.

Between the on-court experiences, K-State will venture to historic sites such as the Colosseum, Vatican City, Florence, Lake Como, Chateau de Chillon and many more.

“You’re interacting in a much different setting. You’re walking through Rome and you’re looking at the Colosseum or the Vatican. It’s much more relaxed, so I think that really is a positive thing,” Weber, entering his fifth season at K-State, said. “You just kind of add it all together and they’re great experiences. I can talk to guys from my first trip in ’83. They’re in their 50s and they still remember everything from the trip. Those are lifetime memories, lifetime experiences that go a long way.”

To make it all possible, Weber met with K-State Athletic Director John Currie about two years ago to propose a trip in the first year the Wildcats could take one. Currie matched Weber’s enthusiasm to take advantage of the opportunity.

“(John) knows it’s a great experience. I think he knows the benefits we had going to Brazil, but not every athletic department does it and not every coach does,” Weber said. “But everyone is different. I had never traveled in my life growing up. I’d never had that experience, but I value it.”

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