Monday, August 22, 2016

UCLA Men's Basketball: Men's Basketball Arrives in Australia


Bruins arrive in Sydney on Sunday morning after 15-hour flight from Los Angeles.

For the UCLA men's basketball program, the first leg of this weekend's journey to Australia indicated that this isn't going to be a regular road trip.
Not only did the nonstop 15-hour, 7,500-mile flight involve travel to another country, but the Bruins crossed the international dateline over the Pacific Ocean, thereby never seeing their Saturday. UCLA's flight on Qantas Airways departed from Los Angeles International Airport around 11:30 p.m. on Friday evening and touched down in Sydney at 7 a.m., local time, on Sunday.
"It's such a unique experience when you talk about travel," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "We never experienced Saturday because of the substantial time change. But Sydney is a very special place, and we're looking forward to our guys getting out in the city to see places like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge."
Since the program's most recent foreign trip – to China in Aug. 2012 – UCLA's team has certainly accrued its fair share of airline miles. Between in-season trips to the Bahamas (2014), Maui (2015), Chicago (2014), Louisville (2015), Houston (2015) and three getaways to New York City in the last four seasons, the Bruins have become a well-traveled group.
In fact, since February 2015, the Bruins have played in all four time zones across the continental United States.
"College is a special, educational time in the lives of our young men," Coach Alford said. "So our guys at UCLA are going to get that piece of it, whether it's them traveling to the East Coast in our own country, or going to the Bahamas or Maui. And now in this case, they're able to visit Sydney and Melbourne and the Gold Coast."
Having the opportunity to take an off-season foreign trip, as permitted by the NCAA once every four years, will provide this year's team more room for growth as the Bruins continue to gel after several weeks of off-season workouts.
"You bring a team like this to a different part of the world so they can get different experiences each and every day," Coach Alford said. "From a team standpoint, you're going to see a different part of the world. You get to be together, to hang with each other, and hopefully we'll see our guys build that trust with each other. That's the biggest thing we'd like to see. And secondly, there's a great educational opportunity with seeing a different part of the world and being able to learn about their culture."
Now getting acclimated to a new time zone and different surroundings – and slightly cooler weather – the Bruins will wake up Monday knowing they have three exhibition games on the horizon against Australian teams. Practice is in order for the team on Monday afternoon.
As far as games are concerned? Up first, a Tuesday night contest against Sydney University (7:30 pm in Australia, 2:30 am in Los Angeles). Also in the schedule are evening games against Melbourne United on Aug. 27 and the Brisbane Bullets on Aug. 29. UCLA will return to Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
As for their first day in Australia, the Bruins headed from the airport to the Coogee Bay Hotel for breakfast before taking a walk across the street to the bay. Described as a classic suburban beach, Coogee also served as a perfect backdrop for players and coaches to take photos and stretch their legs after the long flight and morning meal.
UCLA continued its first day in Sydney with a visit to the Taronga Zoo, now celebrating its 100th year as a city zoo in Sydney. With wildlife and exhibits featuring over 2,600 individual animals, Taronga Zoo gave the Bruins a chance to see swamp wallabies, red kangaroos, koalas, emus, Tazmanian devils, and laughing kookaburras, among others, at close distances.
The late afternoon hours provided the team with a chance to check into its hotel in Sydney, unpack and rest before dinner at Nick's, a seafood restaurant overlooking Darling Harbour in Sydney.
While the players will be adjusting to a new time zone as they get their first night of sleep in Australia – the time zone in Sydney and Melbourne runs 17 hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone – one itinerary item in particular penciled in for Monday could provide quite the thrill for those who are not afraid of heights.
Be sure to check out Monday's adventures by following the Bruins' basketball program on its social media channels in addition to Follow "UCLAMBB" on Twitter (@UCLAMBB), Instagram (UCLAMBB), Facebook ( and Snapchat (uclambb).

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