College basketball foreign tours: Winners and losers

Jason King
Duke big man Ryan Kelly is stealing some headlines from touted freshman Austin Rivers

Every four years, college basketball programs are allowed to schedule summer exhibition games in foreign countries. Along with being good for off-the-court bonding, the trips give coaches a good barometer of what to expect before practice officially begins in October.

A number of high-profile teams took part in exhibition tours this summer. Here are some winners and losers from those trips.

WINNERS

TransfersMississippi State, Texas A&M, Baylor and Iowa State were already feeling good about their chances in 2011-12, but they have to be feeling even better following their respective summer tours. Arnett Moultrie, a 6-foot-11 transfer from UTEP, averaged team-highs in points (16.8) and rebounds (11.2) during the Bulldogs’ five-game tour of Europe. Texas A&M, which also traveled to Europe, got a team-high 13.8 points from Elston Turner, the former Washington guard. And it appears Brady Heslip – as well as juco transfer Pierre Jackson – will bring some stability to Baylor’s much-maligned backcourt. He averaged 16.5 points and made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts in Canada. Royce White, who began his career at Minnesota but never played there, averaged 11.8 points and 10.8 rebounds for Iowa State in Italy.

BYU – The Cougars figured their exhibition tour of Greece would end, as scheduled, on Monday. Instead, BYU has been invited to play in an international tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday. A spot became available when Macedonia withdrew. Dave Rose’s squad will face the Greek National Team on Tuesday and the Italian National Team the following day. The games will be televised live all across Greece and will also likely be available online. Even if the Cougars struggle, playing against such high-caliber competition will only help them down the road.

Ryan Kelly, Duke – The Blue Devils still have one game remaining on their tour of China, but other than Yao Ming watching a game from courtside after having lunch with Duke’s staff, the biggest story so far has been Kelly. A 6-foot-11 forward, Kelly averaged 6.6 points in 20 minutes per game as a sophomore last season. Kelly, though, is averaging 18 points in China and has shot a combined 20-of-27 from the field. Kelly’s performance has stolen some of the thunder from the debut of Austin Rivers. The touted freshman guard is averaging 13.6 points but is shooting just 38 percent from the field and has more turnovers (13) than assists (nine).

Oregon – The Ducks picked the perfect year to embark on a 10-day exhibition tour of Italy. Six players return for a program that features nine newcomers. Among the fresh faces are transfers Tony Woods (Wake Forest) and Olu Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech) as well as coveted freshman Jabari Brown. NCAA rules prohibit Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, who becomes eligible in December, from playing for Oregon this summer. Still, this trip will be a huge help to a talented Oregon that needs to develop team chemistry.

LOSERS

Jio Fontan, USC – The Trojans suffered a major blow when Fontan, USC’s leading returning scorer, tore the ACL in his left knee during the team’s third game of a five-game exhibition tour. Fontan will miss the entire 2011-12 season. Fontan had scored 57 points in USC’ s first two games. The combo guard helped lead the Trojans to the NCAA tournament last season and would’ve been a major factor for a squad that lost three starters, including first-round NBA draft pick Nikola Vucevic.

Georgetown – The Hoyas 10-day trip to China turned ugly when a bench-clearing brawl ensued between the Hoyas and the Bayi Military Rockets. Tension had been mounting throughout the game, and the situation came to a head after a hard foul on Georgetown’s Jason Clark. Video of the fight shows punches exchanging, chairs being thrown and water bottles flying from the stands. The brawl came during the second game of what had been billed as a two-day “China-U.S Basketball Friendship Match.”

Villanova – The Wildcats went just 1-4 during their trip to France and the Netherlands, although it should be noted that Jay Wright’s squad didn’t play a bunch of patsies. Villanova played two games against the Senegalese National Team and also faced the national team from the Netherlands. Mouphtaou Yarou more than held his own against top-flight competition, but after the last game, senior captain Isaiah Armwood informed Wright of his intentions to transfer. Talk about ending on a down note.

Baylor’s frontcourt – The Bears are receiving a ton of preseason hype mainly because of a frontcourt rotation that features Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and J’mison Morgan. Three of those players never saw the court in Canada. Morgan didn’t accompany the team on the trip because of what was termed as a “coach’s decision.” Neither did Miller, a freshman who has yet to be given the go-ahead by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Acy accompanied his team to Canada but didn’t play because of an injury.

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