T.O. hosts NCAA hoops teams

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Canada is becoming an exotic pre-season destination for NCAA Division I men's basketball teams.

Because of a recent NCAA rule change prohibiting exhibition games against non-collegiate club teams, several U.S. college squads are making the trek to Canada this year to face CIS and CCAA programs.

The UNC-Charlotte 49ers -- Oct. 9 at York; Oct. 10 at Humber; and Oct. 11 at Guelph -- and the Bradley Braves -- Oct. 9 at Brock and McMaster; Oct. 10 at Wilfrid Laurier; and Guelph and Oct. 11 at York -- are headed this way next week.

"It's a tribute to Canada," said 49ers coach Bobby Lutz, whose team has qualified for the NCAA tournament six of the past eight seasons. "It's a great place to visit and it gives you the opportunity to play college teams. You know what you're getting.

"A lot of teams have gone to the (Caribbean) islands and that may seem like a better destination, but you don't know what quality of gym and what quality of game you'll get ... I think Canada is more attractive than ever for U.S. colleges."

The South Carolina Gamecocks also are coming to Canada next month for games against Carleton, Ottawa and Concordia.

NCAA teams can make a foreign trip every four years. By doing so, a team is granted 10 extra practices before midnight madness officially starts training camp in mid-October.

"This gives us a chance to get somewhere quickly and get some quality time on court," said Bradley coach Jim Les, whose team featured Guelph guard James Gillingham (now playing pro in Germany after he graduated this year).

"We see it as 10 practices and five games before anybody else gets a chance to get started. That's a tremendous advantage for young players."

York coach Tom Oliveri, who turned down several NCAA schools because of a full schedule, sees the exhibition games as a win-win situation.

"It's big for our guys," he said. "A lot of guys on our team had D1 aspirations and this gives them a chance to go out and show people what they are all about. We can only get better from this experience."


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