ew University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Steve Lappas loves his Greek heritage, and his players are going to find out just how much.
At a reception for UMass boosters Friday, Lappas announced that the Minutemen will take a preseason tour of his motherland from Aug. 12 through Aug. 22. They will compete against Greek teams.
Specific details were not available.
College teams playing foreign tours have become popular as a way for them to grow as a unit. Connecticut went to Israel the summer prior to its 1999 national championship. Boston College traveled to South America last year and followed it with a surprising Big East Championship.
For Lappas, the chance to bond with his team prior to his first season at UMass could be valuable.
"You couldn't have had it at a better time from a basketball standpoint," he said, "for me to get an extra week with these guys practicing so at least they'll have an idea of what I'm like.
"They can find out how I want things done on the road," he continued. "I think it's good. But they're going to be on the road for, like, 12 days with a guy they've never been on the road with."
In addition to the basketball, his players will get to see Lappas' overwhelming pride in the land of his father's birth.
"They'll see. I'll be talking to all the waiters in Greek," Lappas said. "Hopefully we'll get to a thing where we can do a little (Greek) dancing."
Prior to Lappas' hiring, UMass had explored the possibility of a summer trip to Chile, while Lappas' Villanova team was going to Greece.
"We had planned this for Villanova. When I left, Villanova said do you still want to do this?" Lappas said, adding that his old school would choose another location.
UMass last went to Europe under John Calipari during the 1994-95 season, when the Minutemen took part in the Buckler Christmas Classic in France and Germany.
PRINGFIELD — University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Steve Lappas is sure the team's trip to Greece in August will help in the short turn.
He's also hoping it will have long-term benefits, too.
Steve Lappas addresses the crowd at the Hall of Fame.
The Aug. 12-22 trip will include four games against Greek professional club teams, and Lappas is hoping a game can be arranged against Greece's national team. The first-year UMass coach, who said he is one of the few Greek-American coaches in Division I, had originally arranged the trip for Villanova before switching jobs and coming to UMass.
Greek organizers agreed to take UMass instead. Lappas thinks the trip will prepare a UMass team with several inexperienced players for a challenging schedule that includes road games at North Carolina State, Boston College and Marshall, home dates against Connecticut and Ohio State, and a return to the Springfield Civic Center against Oregon.
Lappas can read and write Greek, and said the potential recruiting connection is appealing. So is the approved extra week of practice, according to NCAA rules governing such trips.
Incoming freshmen cannot make the trip, but returning players can. For UMass, that includes forward Raheim Lamb, point guard Anthony Anderson and center Kitwana Rhymer, assuming all are eligible by August.
In accordance with academic rules, Lamb and Anderson sat out as freshmen last year. Rhymer must complete a few summer credits to graduate, at which time he'll become eligible to make up the playing season he lost for academics as a freshman.
All three are expected to be eligible in time for the trip. For Anderson and Lamb, it will be their first live action with the team — and while the academic rules allowed Lamb to practice with the Minutemen last year, Anderson couldn't.
"Anthony's our toughest player for me to judge, because I haven't seen him yet," Lappas said. "We can't even work him out until August. And playing intramurals last year couldn't have helped him much."
Lappas said this team will especially benefit from summer game experience. He is installing a new motion offense, but only one perimeter player, Shannon Crooks, has any significant college experience.
Most of UMass' experience is in its low-post returnees, who may have to carry the team until the younger perimeter players can develop.
"We're going to run the motion offense in Greece, play man-to-man defense, and let our players see the work ethic we need," Lappas said.
But even with the added bonus of the Greek tour, he said developing his type of team won't happen overnight.
"It could take some time, no doubt," he said. "But by the end of the year, I think we'll make some noise."