Friday, 28 August 2009

One final Ohio State Preview

Buckeyes running an isolation play: Matta and his team heading to cabins in Ontario after Italy trip proves too costly
By Bob Baptist

When David Lighty saw his mother last weekend, she did what a lot of moms of college students do.

"She told me to get a haircut," Lighty said. "But I didn't. She's going to be a little upset about that.

"But they told us we've got three cabins in the woods or something, so I told them I'm going Paul Bunyan on them. I'm ready for the wilderness."

If not exactly to the north woods, the Ohio State men's basketball team bused north yesterday to Canada, where it will play three exhibition games the next four days against Canadian college teams. The first is at 6 tonight at the University of Windsor.

The Buckeyes, scruffy but with their passports in order, crossed the border at Detroit last night. Rather than check into a Windsor hotel, though, they headed 30 miles farther southeast to Kingsville-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where they will stay in beachfront cottages on the northern shore of Lake Erie.

NCAA basketball teams can travel to foreign countries for games once every four years. The original plan was to visit Italy, coach Thad Matta's ancestral home, but when the economy went south last year and Ohio State sports were told to trim their budgets, David Egelhoff, the team's director of basketball operations, looked north.

The $25,000 cost of the trip -- paid for with discretionary funds from booster clubs -- is about $200,000 less than what a trip to Italy would have cost, Egelhoff estimated.

He said the remote lodging was Matta's idea.

"When he was (coach) at Butler, he inherited a foreign tour where they went to Finland or someplace like that," Egelhoff said. "It wasn't the most luxurious trip. The place was in the middle of nowhere. But what he found (happened) was a lot of bonding among the team.

"He said to look for something not isolated in the middle of nowhere, but where it's not two guys in a hotel room with a TV and we only see them when we eat. Let's do something unconventional."

The Web site of where the team is staying advertises fishing, hiking and biking among the activities available. Egelhoff said there is a "giant yard" in front of the team's cottages in which the players can play cornhole or touch football. The team might go back across the border Sunday, when they don't have a game, to see the Detroit Tigers play.

Jon Diebler wants to go fishing. So does Matta. But they might not have any company.

"I asked Will (Buford) if he wanted to," Diebler said, "but he said he's fished once and he caught a stick. I'll try to get Evan (Turner) or Dallas (Lauderdale) to go, but it might be a struggle."

"Never been fishing in my whole life," Lauderdale said. "But I'm not against it."

It was rumored that the players would have their cell phones and laptops confiscated for the weekend, as the Ohio State football team did for a week during preseason camp. They won't, Matta said. But whether they have cell service or Internet access remains to be seen.

If they don't, Mark Titus won't be updating his popular Club Trillion blog.

"I may have to go back across the border to Detroit and figure something out," Titus said.

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