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BYU's European (Working) Vacation Gets Much More Interesting

BYU's European (Working) Vacation Gets Much More Interesting


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The BYU Basketball team's summer tour of Greece has gone from challenging, to internationally intriguing, in the space of a few days.

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Having easily dispatched its first two Greek professional opponents on Wednesday and Friday of this week, and with a game in Crete (at a U.S. military base) on the agenda for Monday, the Cougars have learned of a surprise development that will place them in the middle of a multi-nation tournament next week.

Thanks in large part to former Cougar Brock Reichner's connections within the Greek basketball community (Reichner played the 2006 basketball season for Greek professional team Aris), BYU has been selected to serve as a replacement for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, following its late withdrawal from the Acropolis of Athens Tournament. BYU will take part in tourney games on Tuesday, August 23rd and Wednesday, August 24th.

The Cougars are scheduled to face the host Greece National Team on Tuesday at 12:15pm MT, then take on the Italian National squad the following day, at 9:45am MT. The games will be held in the 19,000-seat OAKA Arena at the Olympic Complex at Marousi, and both contests are likely to be broadcast online, with viewing details to be announced closer to the respective game times. Reports are that the games involving the Greek squad will be national television in the home country.

While the tournament is a four-team event, BYU's travel schedule will not allow the Cougars to play a third game against the tourney's other competing nation, Bulgaria.

An event now in its 26th year, the Acropolis of Athens Tournament has featured U.S. collegiate competition before.

1988: Duke (finished fourth)

1989: ACC All-Stars (bronze medal)

1993: NCAA All-Stars (finished fourth)

1995: NCAA All-Stars (bronze medal)

1996: NIT All-Stars (silver medal)

1998: NCAA All-Stars (silver medal)

The host nation has won the last six and eight of the last nine tournament titles.

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Clearly, next week's step up in competition will be considerable, but the two games against continental-level opponents will represent a significant growth opportunity for Dave Rose's team--a team featuring a handful of core returners, but equally as many newcomers.

I'm sure Rose, his staff and players are grateful for the opportunity to learn more about themselves on a stage with suddenly much brighter lights; it will be exciting to see how the Cougars respond.

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The team is scheduled to conduct a Saturday clinic in Crete, and will attend Sunday church services on the island. Following the Monday game, the team will fly back to Athens for the tournament games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Prior to the Tuesday game with Greece, the squad will take part in a fireside arranged by the LDS mission president in Athens. Rose, his wife Cheryl, and players Noah Hartsock and Brock Zylstra are scheduled to speak.

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No matter who the Cougars faced on their foreign tour, the trip to Greece was going to be a memorable experience for all involved. Now that BYU finds itself as a marquee performer in an international event, the Cougs' 2011 summer tour has become instantly unforgettable.

Good luck to BYU against the big boys next week!

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Greg Wrubell

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