The Cornell men’s basketball team’s trip to Spain in early August aimed to accomplish more than getting reps in before the start of preseason practices get underway. For first-year head coach Brian Earl, the trip represented an opportunity to start to get to know his team, both on and off the court.
The three-city trip through Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona saw the Red playing three exhibition games against Eurocolegio Casvi, Valencia Select and Sant Julia Select, finishing the excursion with a 3-0 record.
Over the course of the trip, Earl made it a point to play his entire rotation of players. And while the group playing over in Spain won’t necessarily look the same when the team tips off, it gave an opportunity for the Cornell head coach to get he inherited from former head coach Bill Courtney.
“Things are going to be much different when someone new takes over,” Earl said. “The close quarters and being with each other for 10 straight days gives you a crash course in what things are going to look like for the foreseeable future.”
The Red started their trip with a 67-52 win over Eurocolegio Casvi, who previously beat Arkansas two days prior. Sophomore guard Matt Morgan lead Cornell with 19 points, with senior guard Robert Hatter also pitching in with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Cornell then faced off against Valencia Select three days later, pulling off a 69-63 victory. Hatter led the Red with 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Morgan and senior guard JoJo Fallas also contributed 11 points each.
The final leg of the trip featured the Red battling Sant Julia Select and pulling out a 72-69 victory. Sophomore guard Troy Whiteside led the way with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists while sophomore forward Stone Gettings also pitched in with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
While no particular player jumped out to Earl, he said the trip was a step in the right direction.
“It’s more the little things that jump out at you,” Earl said. “Some players have skills that you didn’t expect. Some don’t do things the way that I have in the past. I don’t think there’s a blanket thing that’s what we got out of this. It’s just a list of things that we need to improve or that we’re better at than I thought we were.”
With a new coach comes a new offensive and defensive system, and while the Red has not completely adjusted to the schemes implemented by Earl, the new head coach was happy with the progress he saw in his team overseas.
“A few of the guys have picked up on the way that we want to play offensively, and even defensive scheme, quickly,” Earl said. “There are going to be changes, but we aren’t going to be 180 degrees from where we were last year. As a coach, you try to get the philosophy across.”
The Red do not begin practices until the end of September, but will continue to workout in preparation for the season. While positives certainly emerged from the team’s trip to Spain, there is still quite a bit of work left to be done.
“To some extent, it’s going to be a somewhat quick process,” Earl said. “That being said, we’re nowhere close to where I want to be, but it’s like teaching your kids the ABCs. After day two, he knows ABCD and you’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect us to be at D already.’ That’s sort of the way I come at it with these guys. They’ve locked into our philosophy and know where we’re trying to get now. It’s a matter of fine tuning a bunch in the next months.”