Once every four years, the NCAA allows men’s basketball programs to take an international summer trip to explore another culture, lace up the sneakers against competitors from the land abroad, and enjoy 10 days of practice leading up to the journey.
Until 2010, incoming freshmen were not permitted to accompany teams on these trips. But that year, a new NCAA rule took effect allowing incoming freshmen who had gone through the NCAA clearinghouse and completed summer classes to join their teammates on these excursions. Trips by programs rose sharply with the ability for freshmen – who of course completed the full complement of players eligible for the upcoming fall season – to take advantage.
The trips are ideal for younger programs integrating new pieces, like the 2013-14 Rhode Island Rams.
In Dan Hurley’s first season at the helm, 2012-13, the undermanned Rams would slow tempo, defend with grit, and slog their way to an 8-21 season. Optimism persisted in the face of that record, however, as the team competed hard every contest and junior college transfer Xavier Munford established himself as a legitimate scoring threat in his first year in Kingston.
Off the court, the Rams made news in the fall of 2012 as well — inking two signees. You might remember them… E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin.
The 6-foot-4, Matthews, a top 100, 4-star prospect out of Romulus High School in Michigan and the 6-7 Martin, a versatile 3-star prospect hailing from Curtis High in Staten Island, New York would form the cornerstones of the Rhode Island program turnaround and ascension.
They’d join to-be eligible transfers Gilvydas Biruta, DeShon “Biggie” Minnis, Jarelle Reischel and Ifeanyi Onyekaba – along with other key holdovers like Munford and now current assistant coach T.J. Buchanan (then a junior).
The time was ideal. So Dan Hurley elected to take his team to Italy from August 2nd to 12th, 2013, to indoctrinate the talented freshmen, build on court connection among all, and off court chemistry.
The trip served as a springboard for program growth. The young, improving Rams meshed early and were able to build upon the previous year’s win total by six in 2013-14. Beyond the win-loss gain, Rhode Island was transitioning to a program with a winning culture under Hurley.
Between 2014-15 and 2017-18 when Matthews graduated (after an injury redshirt year) Rhode Island would win 91 games, earn AP national rankings in 2016-17 and 2017-18, and make back-to-back second round NCAA Tournament appearances at the expense of Creighton and a Trae Young led Oklahoma program.
But long before all of what they’d accomplished stateside transpired, the journey began in Italy.
Cox Sports crews led by producer Chris Ackerknecht were immersed in the Italy experience from tip to final horn and beyond. Culture, cuisine and laughs are abound as the Rams get a taste of the Italian lifestyle — and sprinkle in some basketball too.
So join us on Yurview as we revisit:
RHODY 2 ROME
Sunday, May 31, 9:00pm
Wednesday, June 3, 8:30pm
Thursday, June 4, 9:30pm
channel 4 for Cox customers
Take a peak at the trailer: