What the Eastern Kentucky Colonels did on their summer vacation may pay dividends on the basketball court this season.
Coach Jeff Neubauer and his players recently returned from a four-game exhibition tour of Australia.
EKU went 1-3, all three losses coming to teams from the National Basketball League — Australia's equivalent of the NBA.
"In two of those games ... we had a shot in the air when the final horn sounded that would have won the game," Neubauer said. "Neither ball went in, but we gave ourselves a chance to win both games in regulation in two of those three losses."
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The Colonels, 24-10 and the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champions last season, learned plenty while having some fun in Australia.
"We played really high-level teams," Neubauer said. "We're experimenting with some new defenses, so it was really interesting to see how the Australians attacked our different defenses."
Along the way, the EKU players were able to tour the Sydney Opera House, and to try snorkeling and scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. There was even a sighting of a hammerhead shark.
Corey Walden, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, led EKU by averaging 18.3 points, 6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4 steals a game.
"We learned a lot from a basketball standpoint," Walden said. "We have a great group of guys and we'll be really good this year. We're really talented and really smart, and we're a really athletic team.
"I learned that I need to be a better leader for these guys. I need to step up and play a bigger role."
The tour was something of a coming-out party for 6-7 senior Timmy Knipp and 6-4 redshirt sophomore Jaylen Babb-Harrison.
"For certain players who've been in our program for several years, who are going to have increased roles this year, I think that's who the trip was most important for," Neubauer said. "Timmy Knipp has been part of our program and part of our success for the last three years and now, this year, we really are hoping for a great senior year from Timmy. I thought he did very well down there.
"Also, Jaylen Babb-Harrison. This will be his third year in our program and he really hasn't played for the first two years here at EKU, but we're hoping that he plays an expanded role this year."
Knipp finished second on the team with 16 points a game, with Babb-Harrison adding 14.
Knipp, a former standout at Elliott County, said he learned plenty by getting more playing time with his teammates, getting to know them better.
His starting role was an adjustment, "but I felt like me and Jaylen handled it well. I feel like we both played really well down there."
"It was a great trip for our team," Neubauer said. "I think the most important thing you can take from these trips is the level of bonding that goes on. We certainly do have a group that gets along very well, and I think that goes a long way."