More SEC teams practice with foreign exhibition games
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The Arkansas basketball team will hit the court to start practice earlier this year than in the past, thanks to a precedent set last year by Duke.
To start practicing earlier in the year, more Southeastern Conference basketball teams are seeing the world.
Under NCAA rules, U.S. college teams cannot play each other on foreign soil, so the American schools play exhibition games with local pro and club teams. And those rules allow a team to begin practice before the foreign tour starts.
The Arkansas Razorbacks begin practice on Aug. 20, preparing for four games in Cancun, Mexico, Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
The Crimson Tide of Alabama began practice two weeks ago, on July 26, and shipped out to the Bahamas on Sunday for five games, the last next Saturday. Vanderbilt will place five games in Spain, Thursday through Aug. 24. And Tennessee will play three games in the Dominican Republic, Oct. 16-19.
An example was set last year by Duke, which played in England last year during October, during a break in the fall class schedule.
"What Duke did last year opened up the door," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "Most coaches took notice of that and looked at their teams and what might help them prepare for this season."
Heath said the early practice and the exhibition games would "pay dividends for us ... over the course of this season."
NCAA rules allow 10 days of practice before a team embarks on a foreign tour.
"The practice is what I'm excited about," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. "Getting 10 days with your whole team is huge."
A team that goes on a foreign tour before the start of school can't practice with its freshmen and junior-college transfers. But Heath said his four incoming freshmen -- guards Ronnie Brewer, Olu Famutime and Preston Cranford; and forward Vincent Hunter -- will be able to start practice on Aug. 25, when classes begin at Fayetteville.
Heath said he would prefer to have the freshmen in all the practice sessions, but thinks they'll still get a lot of benefit from being eligible for some practices, and from playing in the exhibition games.
"In the big picture, it was in our best interests to make the trip," Heath said. "We have a lot of inexperienced guys who now have an opportunity to start playing together earlier."
That, he said, will give them "a chance to get away and get a feel for the system that we're going to have in place, and see how some of our new talent fits in."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index