Trip to Bahamas should be more than just vacation to Rams.
FORT COLLINS» With a five-member incoming recruiting class and two Division I transfers now eligible, the Colorado State men’s basketball team has plenty of fresh faces.
There are also some familiar ones with the return of starters Prentiss Nixon, Nico Carvacho and J.D. Paige.
Mixing the old with the new, and establishing roles and new team leaders in the absence of Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo, will take some time. Luckily for the Rams, they will have a head start thanks to a trip to the Bahamas on tap Aug. 5-11.
College basketball teams are allowed one such trip overseas every four years, although it has been five since CSU last traveled abroad — which was also to the Bahamas during coach Larry Eustachy’s first season with the team, in 2012.
“We have some experience back; we also have a lot of unanswered questions, so it’ll be a chance to move us further ahead, particularly with this monster nonconference schedule we have,” said Eustachy, who coached the Bahamian national team for one season in 2014. “It’s a chance to progress, whether it’s maturity-wise, whether it’s getting to know your teammates, whether it’s execution, whether it’s understanding our terminology, whether it’s understanding what the coach expects.”
“It’s a lot of things. It lets us start our season sooner. And it gives our guys a chance to go somewhere they’d probably never go.”
The Rams will play three games against teams from the Bahamas during their weeklong getaway. Perhaps just as important are the 10 extra practices the Rams are allowed in preparation for the trip.
The entire squad has been together for more than a month now, and if anything, the CSU coaching staff has had to pull back the reins to avoid burnout.
“With this Bahamas thing, we’ve got even more time with them, so it’s been good,” associate coach Steve Barnes said. “You want to coach them, but you also don’t want them to be not wanting to be in the gym in February and March. So it’s kind of, ‘Are we poking too hard? Are we going enough?’
“We’re just really trying to get the right read on how much to do and how much to teach. It’s been good for the new guys, and to give the older guys a chance to lead. We’ve had a good summer.”
The Rams’ success in 2017-18 will depend largely on their ability to fill the massive holes left by Omogbo and Clavell, a pair of first-team all-conference players a season ago who led CSU to a runner-up finish in both the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament.
“I think our program is maybe a year away, I really do. If you look at it, we really worked hard to not fall off the map, as I’ve said so many times. So I think we’ve got good leadership in the top end and guys are really eager to learn,” Eustachy said. “Our guys are talented, but we’re just inexperienced. Even though we have three starters back, they’re going to have to step into a different role. It’s easier when you go into San Diego State with Gian and Emmanuel on your team. Now guys like Jeremiah (Paige) are going to have to step up and take over those roles.”
Not only will the Bahamas trip provide an opportunity for new leadership to emerge, it will give the coaching staff an opportunity to tinker with lineups and rotations, something that usually isn’t done during summer practices.
“Right now they’re all kind of in the hopper together, and when we go down to the Bahamas, now you’re going to start playing different combinations,” Barnes said. “You don’t get that really that much when you’re just, ‘OK, you five against you five,’ because they’re just all together. We’ll get a better feel of, ‘Oh, that’s a pretty good starting group, that’s a pretty good seven, that’s a pretty good eight.’ That kind of thing.”