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August 12, 2012

Europe trip about growth and improvement for Steve Hawkins

With one full week of practice in the books, the Western Michigan men's basketball team is now less than one week away from embarking on their trip to Europe. And it's clear that head coach Steve Hawkins is more focused on preparing his team to develop relationships and team chemistry among the group, rather than concentrating on wins and losses overseas.

"I think it could all be summed up in one word and that's growth," explained coach Hawkins. "Growth. Improvement. Those are the kind of things really that it all comes down to. That's why we take the trip. There's no way to get these eight freshman experience without getting them out on the floor."

"We'll get a chance to bond and there will be a great educational value to it. I don't know how much the games themselves are going to tell us, but the ten days of practice is the real value of what we're doing right now. That's the real value of the European trip from a basketball standpoint."

The Broncos depart from Detroit at 4:15 p.m. this Friday and plan to arrive in Rome at 9:10 a.m. (Italy time) Saturday morning. From there, they'll go straight to a sightseeing tour of the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill, and the Roman Forum. The trip also includes tours of the Vatican City, Tower of Pisa, French Riviera (Nice, France), and the Prince's Palace of Monaco.

Seniors Nate Hutcheson, Brandon Pokley, and Dan Loney have taken on much of the same mentality as their head coach during the first week of practice in preparation for Europe.

"Improve." Hutcheson stated bluntly when asked what he hoped his team would get out of the Europe trip. "You always like to win games but who knows what's going to happen."

"I don't think we're really looking at wins and losses," said Dan Loney. "We're looking at bonding and molding as a team and using these four games in Europe to our advantage. It's four free games that we get to develop some team chemistry."

"We were all strangers a couple of weeks ago," explains Pokley. "We're just trying to all get on the same page right now."

The Broncos haven't put too much emphasis on reviewing the International rules yet, as their main focus has been getting the offense up and running so they are prepared to play in seven days. And Coach Hawkins seems very pleased at what the team has been able to accomplish during the first week of practice.

"I'm really happy with it," said Hawkins when asked about first impressions after week one. "You know the old saying 'you only get one chance to make a first impression?' And as a coaching staff we had to try and make our first impression with the freshman out there with our mentality. I thought we got a lot done in the first week. Especially in the first four days (out of 6) of practice. We really got a lot done."

"The last two days we had to shift a lot of emphasis over to offense because of timing and getting ready to play games over there. We had to be organized so we've got to do everything we can to have our kids have some success in Europe. And that meant offensively doing a lot more than what we would normally do."

"Normally within the first week of practice there's a little bit of offense and ton of defense. It's probably 70/30, maybe even 80/20 in the first week of practice. This has been probably 60/40 through the first 4 days. There's more balance involved."

On Saturday, the Broncos used the "Euroball" during all four scrimmages and Coach Hawkins briefly touched on a few minor International rules along the way as they came about.

At one point in practice, freshman Darius Paul was whistled for goaltending after he grabbed a Dan Loney layup that was still bouncing around on the rim. Coach Hawkins stopped practice for a moment to explain that although Darius had made a mistake just then, it was actually not considered to be "goaltending" and the play would have been allowed according to International rules.

The Broncos will begin to shift their focus into the Europe trip specifically and learning more about the International rules and nuances during next week's practices.

"We didn't get into much of the European/International rules. Next week we will," explained Coach Hawkins.

"The biggest thing that we're going to be dealing with is the 24-second shot clock. We've talked to two or three other teams that have gone on trips. When teams come back, they say well, it's just not as realistic because of the 24-second shot clock. Here there is more time to be patient with a 35-second shot clock. Over there you better get it up and get into something real quick because you're only going to have a couple of looks at it and that'll be it. That will be a big change."

"Goaltending, the eight seconds you have in the backcourt (as opposed to ten seconds here), referees don't handle the ball as much, the key is much bigger... there's a lot. It's a completely different game."

Western Michigan's schedule is as follows:

Sunday, August 19th at 6:30 p.m. vs. Basket Fondi (Rome, Italy)
Wednesday, August 22nd at 4:00 p.m. vs. Stella Azzurra (Florence, Italy)
Saturday, August 25th at 5:00 p.m. vs. Antibes (Nice, France)
Sunday, August 26th at 4:00 p.m. vs. Monaco (Nice, France)

"Nobody's going to look at a stat sheet in Europe," explained Coach Hawkins. "That'll be the tendency for our fans to look at a stat sheet and say 'So and so played well.' It'll be fun to see and fun to talk about, but we are going to be looking to establish the mentality more than anything else. We're just trying to establish the mentality that it takes to play in our system. The mental toughness, the physical toughness, the values that we hang our hat on."



















The Broncos are scheduled to return to Kalamazoo very late in the evening on Monday, August 27th. The first official day of fall practice to begin preparing for the 2012-2013 season is Friday, October 12th.

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