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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Men's Basketball

UH men’s basketball leaves for exhibition tour in Australia

The Cougars will play for exhibition games on its trip to Australia, including a game against the Australian national team. | Anh Le/UH athletics

The Cougar men’s basketball team departed for Sydney, Australia Friday afternoon where the team will play four exhibition games over the next week and a half.

The NCAA allows basketball teams a trip to play exhibition games every four years, with UH’s last trip being in Italy in 2019.

UH will play the East All-stars of the National Basketball League on Monday, and then will play the Australian National Team two days later in Cairns. After that, the team will play the Frankston Blues, a semi-professional team of the NBL1 on August 12 before facing the Australian Select team a day later. The team will return to Houston on August 15.

For the players, it will be a chance to gel as a team.

“Just keep building our relationship that just started a couple of months ago,” said senior guard Jamal Shead. “Especially with the freshmen and the new guys.”

The most eye-catching matchup for the Cougars will be the opportunity to play against an Australian National Team that features several NBA players including veteran Patty Mills and Oklahoma City Thunder standout Josh Giddey.

“Just experience-wise I think it’ll be helpful for us as a team,” said graduate guard Damian Dunn, who transferred from Temple. “Individually, you get to work on your skills and use it as a measuring stick to see where your game is.”

According to head coach Kelvin Sampson, for whom this will be his third trip at UH, the games are more about getting live reps for a team that has four freshmen and two new transfers than anything else. Sampson hearkened back to when former star guard Quentin Grimes struggled on the team’s trip to Italy in his first summer at UH in 2019.

“I think (Grimes) had two games where he didn’t score,” Sampson said. “But that’s okay. That’s what this trip is about: breaking the ice.”

Redshirt senior forward J’Wan Roberts — the only remaining player from that trip — remembers how it brought the team together two years before it went on a run to the Final Four in 2021.

“It brought us closer together,” Roberts said. “Coach Sampson had us in different rotations just to see how we would complement each other. It was a great experience.”

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