West Virginia (traveling to Italy and Greece)
The West Virginia roster under head coach Mike Carey has a lot of contrasts. Carey has six newcomers (not counting some new faces on his coaching staff), but also seven juniors and seniors. His roster also mixes in numerous junior-college and Division I transfers alongside players who have been at West Virginia for their whole careers, including fifth-year senior standout Tynice Martin. “We have a young team, so [the season] can go one of two ways,” Martin told High Post Hoops. “… We have a whole different team, a whole new staff, [but] we’re planning on making it work this season.” (Unfortunately, those plans hit an early snag when West Virginia suspended Martin indefinitely and announced that she would miss the trip.)
Despite the team’s high hopes for the 2019-20 season, Carey set a relatively low bar for the tour. “I just don’t want to get anybody hurt,” he said. “That’s my goal going over, not get anybody hurt, have everybody healthy.” He began the practices leading up to the tour shorthanded: three players watched from the sideline with injuries and two junior-college transfers arrived late.
In those practices, Carey focused only on the basics. With so many newcomers, Carey said, “it’s a great year to go over there and get a lot of team bonding … we’re excited about it.” He added that, basketball-wise, the extra practice time and team-building time were the main advantages of taking a foreign tour, not the games themselves.
However, the Mountaineers’ three games are against tough competition, including against the Dutch national team on back-to-back days. That high level of competition was by design. Carey explained, “I’d rather go down there and play a good team, a team that’s organized, than go down there and play a pickup team. I just think there’s less chance of getting hurt.”
Carey originally scheduled two practices during the tour, one right after the team lands in Europe and one between the second and third games. “That’s the coach coming out in me,” he said wryly. But he canceled the first practice because the team’s itinerary includes a tour of Rome that day, which underscores how committed Carey is to maximizing his team’s non-basketball education overseas. The itinerary also includes a tour of the Vatican (a sight Carey is particularly excited for his players to see), a pizza-making class, time at the beach in Greece, and a visit to Greece’s Attica Zoological Park.
Carey said that none of his players have been to Italy or Greece, which only adds to his desire to maximize the trip. “To me, it’s not about the basketball on these trips. It’s about the chance of a lifetime, go out and see things you’ll probably never see again.” He added, “I want them to have a good time and see everything and tour everything and have something they can talk about for years.” If it happens to pay off in March, too, that would be a win-win.