John Denton's Knights Insider: Men's Basketball Heading to Canada in August

July 7, 2011

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - With a host of newcomers about to join a UCF men's basketball team that finished on a high note last year, it's never too soon to get a jump start on next season - even if it means traveling to another country.

The Knights will travel to Montreal Aug. 10-14 to play three games against Canadian college teams. The NCAA allows for teams to go on foreign exhibition trips every four years, and the Knights were free to do so since they last visited Belgium, Holland and France in 2005.

The Canadian trip will be financed by money raised from the Victory Club, UCF's basketball booster club.

UCF head coach Donnie Jones, who led the Knights to a 21-12 record and the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational tournament in his first season in Orlando a year ago, said that the 10 days of practice allowed before the trip will be as valuable to the team as the three games played in Canada. UCF is returning A.J. Rompza, Dwight McCombs, P.J. Gaynor, Marcus Jordan, Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes, but will also be attempting to incorporate Division I transfers Tristan Spurlock, Josh Crittle and Jeff Jordan and true freshmen Rod Days, Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson onto the team. The three freshmen are currently enrolled in summer school and can participate in the trip to Canada if they excel with their studies this summer.

``I think this trip is huge for our program. Last year we had an opportunity to go, but with it being my first year there were so many unknowns I thought we'd wait a year,'' Jones said. ``Now, we can add in the new faces and the ones back, and now it gives us a chance in the summertime to bond and have 10 days to practice and seven days to compete. Especially to our new kids it's a huge advantage to go to Canada and go play against (three) different opponents.''

UCF enjoyed one of the most memorable campaigns in school history last season, climbing to a No. 18 national ranking. The Knights started the season 14-0, beating in-state rivals No. 16 Florida, Miami and USF along the way.

UCF dipped to 6-10 in Conference USA play, but closed the season with a strong flurry by beating St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island in the CBI tourney before losing on the road to Creighton.

Jones said his Knights will approach the games in Canada just like the regular season by watching game films, installing game plans and plotting specific strategies. He wants this experience to simulate the way the Knights function during the season so that the team has a firm grip on the attacking, pressure defense system by the start of preseason camp.

``We'll have the strategy, we'll prepare game-like situations, we'll watch film and it will give them a quick study in the summer for what to expect in the fall,'' Jones said. ``It also gives us a chance to play guys in different situations and spots and see how the freshmen respond to playing with certain guys. When we hit September and October, we should be really thriving. We're excited about it and it's a great investment in our program.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.