As the campus prepares for fall break, the Lake Erie College men's basketball team is making bigger preparations for this weekend (Oct. 14-17). The team leaves Thursday for a four-day trip to Ontario, Canada for two exhibition games against Canadian universities.
This is the first time in team history that men's basketball has made an international trip and the players are excited to go and ready for the challenge.
"I'm excited to finally get this season started," said sophomore center Garrick Sims (Barberton, Ohio/Barberton), who was made the independent All-Freshman team last season. "We're already looking like a better team than last year and are dedicated to being a great team."
The Storm will take on the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario on Friday night and travels to Hamilton, Ont. to face McMaster University on Sunday afternoon.
With different regulations governing Canadian college teams, these squads are already well into their seasons, having started basketball in September. Facing strong teams already in mid-season form should provide a good test for Lake Erie, which will compete in the rugged Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this season.
"We are looking to find out our strengths and weaknesses as a team," said sixth-year head coach Cliff Hunt. "It's kind of a laboratory for us to see where we are and where the new guys fit in. If we had done this over summer than our freshman would not have been eligible to participate."
(Watch more of Coach Hunt's thoughts on the trip below.)
This trip offers Hunt's team not just the advantage of two games against battle tested teams – NCAA rules allow for ten days of additional practice leading up to a international trip. Teams are allowed to take international trips and realize this advantage only once every four seasons.
"Going into the GLIAC we thought this might be a great year to set something like this up," explained Hunt. "Hopefully getting the extra 10 days of practice will help ready us for the GLIAC schedule. It's been a big plus as far as the learning curve and integrating the new players into the team."
General fundraising and guaranteed games from the independent schedule the Storm has faced over the past two seasons have made this trip possible. It will not be just basketball for the Lake Erie College men, as this bonding experience will include a trip to Niagara Falls as the team looks to grow closer together.
"This year we have been doing everything as a team," said senior guard Ethan Bradshaw (Cincinnati, Ohio/Harmony Prep), a first-team All-Independent selection in 2010. "The extra practices and just being around each other has built so much team chemistry it is unbelievable."
You will be able to find more information on the game and trip, including a players' blog recapping the weekend, at www.lakeeriestorm.com.