Men’s Oklahoma basketball team heads off on ‘Down Under’ exhibition trip

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08: Jaylen Fisher
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08: Jaylen Fisher /

Head coach Lon Kruger and the Oklahoma basketball team left Thursday on an 11-day overseas trip to New Zealand and Australia, where the Sooners will play four exhibition games against international competition.

One of the Sooners, sophomore Matt Freeman, is looking especially forward to the trip. Freeman is from Auckland, New Zealand.

The team left Norman on Thursday afternoon and will stop in Los Angeles before flying to New Zealand on Friday. The Sooners’ first game in the foreign trip will be against the New Zealand Select on Sunday. That is the only game the team will play in Freeman’s homeland.

The Sooners will move on to Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday and play back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday against Sutherland Sharks and the Sydney Kings.

Oklahoma will wrap up the foreign trip with a game against the Cairns Taipans on Aug. 13 before heading for home on Aug. 14.

Two seasons ago, when the Sooners went on an international exhibition tour in the Bahamas, Buddy Hield, a native of the Bahamas, served as a tour guide for the team. This time around, Freeman gets the opportunity to introduce his teammates and coaches to his homeland.

“Usually when I go home, it’s purely to see family and just relax and see people,” Freeman told the Oklahoma City Oklahoman’s Ryan Aber in an interview,

“But this time is a whole lot more special,” he said, “because not only do I get to do that, I get to bring the people that I care about here and the people who are close to me and show them my homeland, show them where I was brought up and get them to meet the people who are close to me back home.”

Freeman scored 15 points in his first game for Oklahoma, but he averaged just over two points a game in his next 25 games. The 6-foot, 10-inch, 224-pound forward made 14 of his 43 field-goal attempts from behind the three-point line, but he missed all 13 of his field-goal attempts over his final dozen games of the season.

“He’s got good awareness, a good attitude and a high-energy level,” Kruger said about his young Australian player. “All the intangibles are there. It’s just a matter of making shots at the Big 12 level.”