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Beginning on Friday, Aug. 15, head coach John Gallagher and his Hartford Hawks men’s basketball team are embarking on a 14-day journey to Australia, the home country of junior Taylor Dyson, sophomore Dougal Weir, and senior Corban Wroe (pictured below).
While the trip will serve as a “homecoming” for Hartford's three Aussies, the team’s non-Aussies will gain a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a foreign culture and play basketball internationally, all while absorbing the lifestyle, history, and scenery of the Land Down Under.
The Hawks are scheduled to land in Sydney on Sunday, Aug. 17. After playing two games in four days against the Sydney Kings and Norths Bears in Australia’s most populous city, the Hawks will then head to Melbourne, where they will play two games against the Dandenong Rangers and Knox Raiders. Following their three-day stay in Melbourne, the Hartford players will head to their final Australian destination, Cairns. During their four days in that city, which harbors the Great Barrier Reef, the Hawks will play their final exhibition game against the Cairns Taipans.
“This is about more than basketball,” said Gallagher. “It’s an educational opportunity to see another culture, see the amazing sites of Australia, and meet amazing people along the way. It is also a bonding experience and an opportunity for the team to experience something together, and it will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Wroe, Dyson, and Weir are very excited to show off their homeland to their teammates, said Tom Devitt, director of men’s basketball operations. “They are very proud of their country and their culture,” Devitt said, noting that many student-athletes don’t get to go on trips like this because their practice and school schedules keep them tied to campus, and because they cannot participate in study abroad programs as other students do.
Among the sites they will visit on the trip is the Darling Harbour Wildlife Zoo in Sydney, where they will also take a tour of Sydney Harbour. There will also be tours of the Great Barrier Reef and the Kuranda National Park in Cairns, and the team will also take a tour of Melbourne. “The trip will be a really nice mix of culture and basketball,” said Devitt.
Devitt noted this trip is being paid for with money raised by the men’s basketball team and that no University funds are being expended. The team has held fundraising events, such as Draft Night and a golf tournament, to raise some of the money. Additional funds were also raised through some “guarantee” games that the Hawks men’s team played against Top 25 teams or teams from power conferences, such as their game at Louisville last season.
Devitt added that this tour also presents a unique recruiting opportunity for the men’s basketball team and for the University as a whole, as it will raise awareness and visibility for the University of Hartford among potential college students and their parents.
The trip marks the second time Gallagher has taken his team to the Land Down Under, as the Hawks previously spent 12 days in Australia prior to the 2010-11 season.
This trip also is something of a reward for men’s basketball team’s success in the classroom. Earlier this summer, the Hawks earned a Team Academic Excellence Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Created by the NABC Committee on Academics, the Team Academic Excellence Award recognizes outstanding academic achievement by a team with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better for the 2013-14 season. Collectively, the Hawks combined for a 3.10 GPA.
Hartford also had four of its members earn NABC Honors Court accolades, an award that recognizes men's college basketball student-athletes who excelled in academics during the past season. Recent graduate Adam Oresky and seniors Mark Nwakamma, Jamie Schneck, and Corban Wroe earned NABC Honors Court accolades, which is for juniors or seniors with a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year. Oresky, who graduated from the University’s Barney School of Business in May with an accounting degree, earned a 3.88 GPA, the highest mark on the team. Schneck, an insurance/finance major, was close behind Oresky with a 3.85 GPA. A biology major, Nwakamma holds a 3.24 GPA entering his final season with the Hawks. With a 3.68 GPA as a health sciences (physical therapy) major, Wroe previously earned America East All-Academic Team honors while becoming the first-ever Hartford player to receive a nod to the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Scholar-Athlete Team.
Fans can travel with the Hawks without the hassles of international flight by following the Hartford men's basketball team on Facebook (/UHartMensHoops), Twitter (@UHartMensHoops) and Instagram (@UHartMensHoops). Fans can also catch up with the Hawks by visiting HartfordHawks.com, where there will be daily video blogs from the players, game highlights and stats, as well as a view of the tour through the eyes of Anton Goff, UHart’s new director of athletics, via the “Goff Blog.”