On Wednesday afternoon the Wildcat football team piled into busses and trekked across the Southern Arizona desert for a military base. 24 hours or so later the Wildcat basketball team boarded an airplane and flew to a resort in the Caribbean.
The football team will stay in military barracks, the view outside their window likely to be more barracks.
The basketball team will stay at the Atlantis resort, the view outside their windows is majestic blue seas and the luxurious resort with all of its greens and blues.
In the end both trips will hope to accomplish the same thing, build better teams.
For Rich Rodriguez the goals of the trip are to build the team concept, continue to work on the new schemes and teach some life lessons in the backdrop of a sobering reality.
Sean Miller is trying to mesh seven new players, take advantage of additional practices and give his guys a bit of a vacation, all in the backdrop of a fantasy location.
The football team will rub elbows with military personnel making real sacrifices, while the basketball team will rub elbows with vacationers who are trying to forget the real world for a few days.
For the football team getting off of campus is good for several reasons. In years past the team would move into the dorms for fall camp, but this year the players stayed at home. The trip to Ft. Huachuca will force them to spend some time together.
“It brings the guys together,” said quarterback Matt Scott. “We are up in the barracks, everybody is in one place. It kinds of builds our team. It makes our bonding a little better. Coach Rod says when we come back we should be a complete team and I think that’s true.”
Moving to the base for a few days also isolates the team from distractions. With so much left to learn, some players really like the isolation and forced focus on football.
“Its fun to get away, to be with the team,” said Dan Buckner. “To get all the distractions out and get better as a team. You just get away, that’s all you have is football.”
Spending time with the soldiers is also a great experience for the team. Being on a college football team can be a step back from the realities of the real world. Although college athletes make sacrifices, rubbing elbows with the military puts it all in perspective.
“No fight is like their fight,” said Buckner. “Everyone praises what we do, but they are over there fighting for our freedom every day.”
Scott echoed those sentiments.
“We respect those guys so much,” the senior quarterback added. “They do so much for us and its just nice being around them.”
While the football team is slogging through two-a-days and being treated to a taste of the military lifestyle, the basketball team will be soaking up a bit of paradise and taking to the hardwood with a revamped roster.
The Wildcats not only welcome seven new players to the team, but the five remaining scholarship players are all in an adjustment phase. Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes both battled injury issues a year ago, while Nick Johnson and Angelo Chol hope to improve on up and down freshman seasons. Even All-Pac-12 performer Solomon Hill is moving back to the wing after spending last season at the power forward spot.
“You forget how much time last year combined they both missed,” Miller said of Mayes and Parrom.
“It’s great for them to practice, and be healthy and play,” Miller added. “In a sense get that head start where they feel healthy and get the feel for a game.”
Although the games and the trips in the Bahamas are nice, the real reward was the 10 extra practices the Wildcats received. The NCAA allows teams making an overseas trop to practice a few weeks before they leave and those practices could be invaluable in trying to get the four freshmen and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons integrated with the team.
The integration will not be only on the court, but off the court as well. Much like their football brethren, the Wildcat basketball team will use the Bahamas trip as a chance to bond.
“Although its about basketball its also about other things,” Miller said. “Players learn each other, they know each other. The difference between a newcomer and someone like Solomon Hill, who’s a senior, it’s really closed.”