The Western Carolina University men’s basketball team, which reassembled on campus late in July for practices, departed today for a 12-day trip through Canada. The Catamounts, who return 10 players from last year’s team, will play five games during the tour, including match-ups versus the Canadian National Team and the Canadian National Collegiate champions.
“This trip allowed us 10 practice opportunities in preparation for the trip, practice opportunities during the trip and five games, which puts us at a big advantage heading into this season,” said head coach Steve Shurina. “The guys came back in good shape both physically and mentally. This time will also be a great learning experience for our team by taking in all the sights along the way and spending quality time with each other. The five games on the trip will allow us a chance to play against top international competition.”
The Catamounts departed early Tuesday morning and will spend the first day in Washington, D.C., touring the city and its various national monuments. The team will be in London, Ontario from Aug. 7-8, playing Orion, a newly formed team in the Canadian professional basketball league, on the 8th at 2 pm. Western will then travel to Ottawa, practicing and sight-seeing on Aug. 10 and playing Carleton University on the 11th. Carleton is the reigning Canadian National Collegiate champion. The following day, Aug. 12, the Cats will face the University of Ottawa.
Western will move on to Montreal from Aug. 13-14, playing an all-star team of Montreal natives on the second day of the stay. The Catamounts will spend Aug. 15-17 in Kitchener, Ontario. On Aug. 16, WCU will face the Canadian Senior Men’s Team, who will be preparing for their qualification tournament in order to participate in the 2004 Olympics.
On the return trip, Western will stop in New York City, where they will tour the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, be in the audience for a “Late Show with David Letterman” and participate in a New York City Police ride-along program.
Prior to the trip, Shurina named former WCU graduate manager Daniel Willis a full-time assistant coach. Willis, a Hickory, N.C., native and 2001 Lenoir-Rhyne graduate, spent the last two seasons on Shurina’s staff. This past season, Willis, who was in charge of film exchange, took on added coaching and scouting responsibilities with the Cats midway through the 2002-03 season, while completing his graduate work in physical education.
“Daniel was a Division II All-American and has great basketball knowledge and experience,” Shurina said. “He has familiarity with our program and has a bright basketball mind. We are fortunate to have him at Western.”
Willis came to Western after a standout career at Lenoir-Rhyne. During his four-year career with the Bears, he became the South Atlantic Conference’s all-time leading scorer with 1,980 points, which ranks second in LRC history, and was a second team National Basketball Coaches Association Division II All-American. Willis finished third in the NCAA II with his 24.5 scoring average in his senior season and was the 2001 South Atlantic Conference Athlete of the Year. In high school, he led Hickory to a pair of 3A state title games (1996 and ’97) and led the football team to a 16-0 record and the state championship in 1996.
Please visit catamountsports.com for updates and results of the team’s Canadian trip.