The last time Kansas State’s basketball team traveled to another country for a summer swing of exhibition games, the Wildcats parlayed the trip into a memorable season.
Senior forward D.J. Johnson reminds teammates of that memory several times a week.
As the lone remaining player that traveled to Brazil four years ago, Johnson has gone out of his way to stress the potential dividends that could come out the team’s upcoming 10-day trip through Italy and Switzerland.
In 2012, the Wildcats learned a lot about themselves. The following March, they won 27 games and claimed a share of the Big 12 championship.
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“He told me a lot about it,” senior wing Wesley Iwundu said of Johnson. “He said it actually helped him a lot during the season. They had a share of the Big 12 title that year. It was big for him that year, too. They got a lot of experience (on that trip). Now, we are all just looking forward to this one.”
K-State will depart on the trip Monday morning, boarding a series of commercial flights that will take the team from Kansas City to Atlanta and then to Rome. The Wildcats are scheduled to arrive Tuesday morning.
During the excursion, they will play five exhibition games against various club and national teams. On top of that, they will tour Rome and five more Italian cities, plus Vatican City. In Switzerland, they will see Montreuz, Lausanne and Lake Geneva.
Coach Bruce Weber thinks the trip will be loads of fun for his players, but it won’t be an easy tour.
“One of the biggest things will be toughness,” Weber said, “because, on paper, it looks great. You are going to these places, unbelievable places to see, but it is a tough trip.
“We get to Rome at in 7 in the morning, but can’t get to our hotel until late in the afternoon. We will be touring all day. The players will want to go to sleep, but we won’t let them. The next day, it’s another tour to the Vatican then you’re going to the game. That’s when you find out about toughness.
“Long bus rides and other games, you see what you are about and if the guys are ready to step up and compete every day.”
Point guard Carlbe Ervin was active, Kamau Stokes appeared back at full strength and freshman Brian Patrick made a surprising number of positive plays.
Weber likes that progress. If it continues in Europe, he hopes the experience of a foreign trip can once again lead to bigger things.
“They have come and practiced really hard,” Weber said. “We have raised our voice with them this month maybe a couple times. From the weight room four times a week to all the workouts and practices, we haven’t had to do much of that, because they show up and do their job. They are focused on getting better.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett