OU to head ‘down under’

The University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team will make a 12-day trip this summer to New Zealand and Australia with four games of international competition in preparation for the 2017-18 season. The Sooners will depart on August 3 and return on August 14.

Oklahoma opens its trip in Auckland, New Zealand, against New Zealand Select on August 6 before traveling to Australia for a trio of games, including two against teams from the country’s premier professional basketball league, the NBL. Oklahoma will face the Southerland Sharks on August 9, the Sydney Kings (NBL) on August 10 and the Cairns Taipans (NBL) on August 13.

The Sooners will have multiple sightseeing opportunities such as snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and touring the Sydney Opera House.

“For our program, this foreign tour couldn’t come at a better time,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. “The opportunity for our young team 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. From the sightseeing, the camaraderie and the talented competition we’ll face, this promises to be an excellent and memorable 12 days for our players, staff and entire program.”

The NCAA allows basketball teams the opportunity to travel outside the United States to face foreign competition once every four years. This will mark the Sooners’ fourth foreign tour. Kruger and the Sooners most recently traveled to France and Belgium for 10 days in 2013. Oklahoma also traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2003 under coach Kelvin Sampson and to Vancouver, B.C., in 2007 under Jeff Capel.

The trip will be especially significant for redshirt-sophomore forward Matt Freeman, who will visit his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand, with his teammates.

“It’s going to be pretty special,” said Freeman. “For me, the amount of time I get to go home is very limited during the year, so anytime I get to go home is meaningful. It’s extra special that I’ll get to be there with my other family – getting to take everyone home that’s close to me here and show them where I’ve been brought up. It’s going to be a really memorable trip and really fun too.”

In preparation for the trip, the NCAA allows 10 additional preseason practices. OU was tentatively scheduled to practice at Lloyd Noble Center on July 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 along with August 1 and 2. As with the regular season, all Oklahoma men’s basketball practices are open to the public.

The foreign tour is funded entirely by donations to the Tip In Club.