Grand Canyon’s men’s basketball team will spend 10 days in Spain in August to get ready for its first season as NCAA Tournament eligible as a Division I member.
This is the second overseas trip in the coach Dan Majerle tenure. When Majerle took over the program before the Antelopes began the four-year probation period transitioning from Division II, his first team traveled to Italy in the summer.
“It’s great timing with the eligibility (to compete in the Western Athletic Conference and NCAA Tournaments) to get that extra time,” Majerle said. “With the new guys coming in, we’ll have extra time to work with them.”
The Antelopes will play exhibitions in Spain with newcomers Casey Benson, Damari Milstead and European big man Alessandro Lever (6-foot-10, 235 pounds).
Benson, who recently graduate from Oregon, will be immediately eligible for his final college season after transferring from the Ducks’ national finalist team.
Benson will likely play off the ball as well as handle the ball at the point, but he’ll be on court much the way DeWayne Russell was last season, hardly taking a seat.
“Casey is a big part of it,” Majerle said. “It’s a great opportunity for him. He’ll play a lot. He’ll be point guard. But he is good off the ball.”
GCU’s schedule, which was released on Wednesday, features a neutral-site game on Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m., at Talking Stick Resort Arena against St. John’s, as part of a double-header that will included Arizona vs. Texas A&M..
The Antelopes continue their series with Louisville, traveling to play the Cardinals on Dec. 23. Last year, Louisville came to GCU and got down by a point at the half, before pulling away, despite 42 points from Russell.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino couldn’t say enough great things about GCU and its student section.
But that student section now apparently is making it difficult for the Antelopes to schedule big Division I opponents at home.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino calls GCU’s DeWayne Russell’s 42 points the best guard performance in at least 10 years. (Richard Obert/azcentral sports)
Majerle said that Saint Mary’s College — one of the nation’s best mid-majors that plays in the same conference as Gonzaga — bought out of its contract with GCU to come to Phoenix this year and won’t play the Antelopes.
“It’s disappointing that Saint Mary’s bought out of the contract,” Majerle said. “It’s just getting harder and harder to schedule top opponents to come here. We’re going to have to play teams like St. John’s on neutral sites.”
Eleven of GCU’s first 12 games are at home, and the other game is in Phoenix at the neutral court (Talking Stick Resort Arena).
It opens Nov. 10 against Florida A&M, followed by Robert Morris (Nov. 13) and Little Rock (Nov. 18).
Majerle said that guard Josh Braun has lost 15 pounds since last season and looks in great shape for his senior season.
He also noted improvements by sophomores Oscar Frayer and Fiifi Aidoo.
Majerle said that Milstead, a freshman point guard from the Bay area, spent all of June at GCU and looked good in workouts.