BLOOMINGTON – IU basketball will make its first overseas tour in seven years this summer, with coach Mike Woodson planning a trip for his team to the Bahamas.
The Hoosiers will go in August, playing multi-day exhibition contests that month. Fans may be allowed to attend.
But the games themselves won’t be the only reason for the trip. Maybe not even the main one.
For a program facing a fresh start in various ways, there may never be a better time to do so.
1 in 1:Why Dane Fife returned to IU, how he plans to advance the program he loves
Additions and subtractions:Making Sense of Mike Woodson’s First Complete IU Basketball List
Foreign (or preseason) tours are only offered to college programs once every four years. Often times they are more dispersed than that, given the extra workload of practices and games in what is normally preseason.
The benefits, however, can mean a lot more under the right circumstances. And it is these circumstances that make this trip meaningful to Indiana.
Woodson spoke at length on a recent Zoom call with reporters about the challenges ahead this summer for his staff, instilling the principles and methods of how he plays basketball into his new roster.
“My biggest obstacle, I think, is how quickly they can overcome it?” Woodson said. “You don’t know until you go out and start training. “
UI coaches are limited to four hours of field instruction per week in the summer, with players split between that, weight room work, and self-organized open gyms.
Teams going on trips abroad, however, get the bonus of not only matches played together, but also practice – 10 of them, full sessions used to prepare for the trip but really used to prepare for the season.
Indiana welcomes a new head coach, two new assistants and a new style of basketball this summer. No more pack line defense. Less rigidity to the offensive structure, with Woodson saying in that same Zoom session that he wants to play “openly, offensively” and that he “will give a lot of players leeway to do things with basketball up to. what they prove to me the contrary “.
Ten full workouts to restart this process before the fall could be essential.
Likewise, they could spend time together on the pitch for a group that welcomes five new faces this summer – two freshmen, three transfers – and has a sixth player on the roster (Parker Stewart) who has yet to. played a competitive match in an IU uniform.
As a group, the Hoosiers could use the time on the pitch to feel comfortable with each other and the time off the pitch to build team chemistry.
There is another element to that as well, something that is not specific to Indiana but relevant nonetheless.
The past 15 months have been difficult for virtually everyone in this country. They presented challenges and hardships, physical and emotional, like many of us had never seen before, and hope never to do so again.
In some ways, college athletes have been more fortunate than average. They could more easily thrive in groups, they had access to daily quick tests and, at a minimum, they still had their seasons.
The challenges they faced were nonetheless grueling.
A positive test for a player, for example, could leave him and any of his roommates in quarantine. Imagine if other good points popped up. A player’s apartment or dormitory could be quarantined for literally weeks.
On road trips, players were sequestered in hotels, allowed to do little other than stay in their rooms, eat meals, and attend team meetings.
There are well-traveled stories (and trust me, there will be more) of players and coaches who lost loved ones during the pandemic, only to be told they couldn’t return home. to be with their families or attend a memorial service, for fear of endangering their teams.
No matter the daily chore of early morning testing, constant follow-up, etc.
The point is, after all, the kids probably just deserve a week together at the beach. And now they’re going to have one.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.