COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When the Gamecocks arrive in Tokyo, it's not merely just a chance to play another game against another basketball team.
The trip, which spans nearly 7,000 miles, will be one that gives players the opportunity to bond with one another while learning a few things along the way.
"We want to see the Olympic venues," said Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley. "I think that's something that's kind of cool for our players to see, what venues are done. Even if they're just in the process of building, we just want to show our players what an Olympic village may look like, maybe some renderings if the buildings aren't up. We want to see where the Olympic basketball games are being played. That arena's up. Just make it more educational. The game's important just for learning. But I think, most of all, giving our players an experience like no other and this trip does that."
Staley said the team has picked up quickly on things they've been taught over the last 10 practices held to prepare for this trip. However, the trip itself will give Staley a better idea about her personnel.
"I think it helps in that you get to see who you're working with a lot sooner than later," Staley said. "Obviously, there are three players that left our program. They leave big shoes to fill but, when you don't know they're not there like the freshmen. They don't know the contributions the players that left made. They're only worried about what they can make, which is good…but they're going to have to play at different spots at times in the season. We're probably going to have to lean on them a little bit."
The trip may be one where players should learn quite a bit on the court, but they'll also become familiar with each other a little more ahead of the upcoming season.
"You're forming that bond that you need not sooner than later," Staley said. "I think this affords us an opportunity to maybe not quickly get into basketball when they get back in August. I think we're going to start a little bit later because of this and let our team get rested and decompress a little bit of basketball because we went a long way into April."
The Gamecocks will head to Tokyo on Tuesday where they will take on the Japan National Team in three closed exhibitions on June 30, July 2, and July 4.