Cougars ready to bring Italy to the Palouse

WSU went on a 10-day exhibition tour throughout Italy in August and opens its season on Nov. 11 at home.

Over the summer, the WSU men’s basketball team went on a 10-day tour of Italy from Aug. 4-14 as a part of a team bonding experience and opportunity to face international competition.

“These trips provide so much for a team, especially a young team like ours, in terms of team bonding, extra practices and game experience,” WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent said. “This is also a great cultural experience for these young men, with most of them having never been out of the United States.”

After returning from Italy, senior guard Ike Iroegbu said it was a great experience for the team and a good precursor for the upcoming regular season.

“Italy was a great experience for us, it was a good time for us to come together and put all our new guys through the fire before actually putting them through the fire,” Iroegbu said. “It just helped us grow together as a team and look at how well we can play if we just all play the right way.”

Senior forward Josh Hawkinson also believes that the trip to Italy will help the team’s new members adjust to Pac-12 competition and play with resilience in tough situations.

“We faced a lot of tough situations over there that are going to be pretty similar to what we face in our season,” Hawkinson said.

The Cougars won their first game of the tour against Rome’s 2F Sport Management by a score of 104-68, and Kent feels as though the opening win was the perfect way for both freshmen and returning players to get in the winning mindset.

“To go on the road, be away from home, not have a lot of fans, but play some strong physical teams, I thought they did a nice job responding,” Kent said. “The whole trip was important for us. The winning was important, the bonding, the practices, the competition — everything we gained out of that trip was very valuable for us.”

As the team transitions from summer and fall competition to the regular season, Kent feels as though the team is now more synchronized at both ends of the floor and brings a complimentary blend of experience and fresh talent to the table.

“You’ll see a team that is in sync with what we want to do,” Kent said. “The fact that they can flow up and down the floor, the ability to score, I think you’ll see a team that’s more intense than the defensive end of the floor. I think people should be pleasantly surprised when they see this team play.”

WSU opens up its season with an exhibition game against Carroll College at 5 p.m. on Sunday in Beasley Coliseum and begins the regular season at home versus Montana State at 4 p.m. on Nov. 11. The game versus the Bobcats will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.