Most of the fan talk and press coverage pertaining to college sports at this time of year is all about the coming football season, but the men’s Oklahoma basketball squad is getting an early start on their forthcoming season, as well.
The Sooners will be practicing at Lloyd Noble Center for several days in each of the next three weeks in preparation for a 12-day overseas trip to Australia and New Zealand, where they will play four preseason exhibition games against international competition.
One Sooner who is particularly excited about the upcoming trip is 6-foot, 10-inch, redshirt sophomore Matt Freeman, who hails from Auckland, New Zealand.
“It’s going to be pretty special,” Freeman said in an article published on the OU athletic website. “For me, the amount of time I get to got home is very limited during the year, so anytime I get to go home is meaningful.
“It’s extra special that I get to be there with my other family (the OU basketball team),” he said.
The NCAA permits schools to travel outside of the U.S. to face foreign competition in preseason exhibition games once every four years. This will be the fourth time the Sooner men have taken such a trip. They last traveled abroad in 2013, Lon Kruger’s second season as head coach. That trip was to France and Belgium. Oklahoma teams have also taken foreign trips under Jeff Capel (Vancouver, B.C., in 2007) and Kelvin Sampson (San Jose, Costa Rica in 2003).
Oklahoma will play one game in New Zealand (Aug. 6 vs. New Zealand Select) before traveling to Australia for three more games. The Sooners will face the Sutherland Sharks on Aug. 9, the Sydney Kings on Aug. 10 and the Cairns Taipans on Aug. 13. The Kings and the Taipans play in Australia’s premier professional basketball league, the NBL.
“For our program, this foreign tour couldn’t come at a better time,” Kruger said. “The opportunity for our young men to travel abroad is monumental in developing our group for the upcoming season while allowing us to grow together by traveling to another part of the world.”
In addition to the four exhibition games, the Sooners will also have time for sightseeing and other recreational activities.