Tuesday is going to be a very long day for the Oklahoma men's basketball team.
But Sooners coach Lon Kruger hopes the day will be the start of a rewarding experience both on and off the court for his team.
The Sooners leave for a 10-day, five-game trip to Belgium and France.
Oklahoma opens play on the trip Thursday.
“It's going to be a great experience playing against people overseas,” sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins said. “It's going to be great for us to come together as a team and start early so we can be prepared for this big season we've got coming this year.”
NCAA rules allow teams to make one such foreign trip every four years and this trip appears to come at a perfect time for the Sooners, who return just two starters from last season's NCAA Tournament team.
One of those returners, Buddy Hield, won't play after reinjuring his foot last week during practice. Hield suffered the original injury against TCU last season.
“As young as we are and with as many new faces and guys that haven't played Big 12 minutes before, it's really good,” Kruger said. “The basketball side of it, the bonding and chemistry side of it and identifying maybe different roles, it's very helpful.”
Perhaps just as importantly as the trip, the Sooners were able to have 10 extra practice sessions before leaving.
The last of those sessions was held Monday.
“It's monumental,” sophomore Je'lon Hornbeak said. “We're getting the defense down. You can see that's what we really work on in practice.
“Defense is going to be the main point. We've got a few people new to the system and we've got a few people that redshirted last year so although they were here, they really didn't get a chance to get offensive reps in.”
The core guard group — Hield, Hornbeak and Cousins — figures to be the backbone of this team once the season rolls around.
But the frontcourt is new, with forwards D.J. Bennett and Ryan Spangler coming off redshirt seasons and a pair of junior college big men coming in.
The juco duo — Edson Avila and Keshaun Hamilton — will not make the trip. Both are finishing academic work before starting with the Sooners.
“Missing those two leaves us a little thin in terms of numbers, but the guys that are here are doing well,” Kruger said. “Ryan Spangler and D.J. Bennett are champing at the bit to play.”
Kruger said he also expected big things out of 6-foot-7 senior Cam Clark and redshirt freshman C.J. Cole.
“The bigs are going to surprise a lot of people that think we're just a guard team,” Cousins said. “They're going to prove them wrong.”
The trip isn't all basketball.
The team will also take some time to take in the sights, including a visit to Normandy, the site of the D-Day invasion in 1944.
Hornbeak has spent some time talking with former Sooners standout Amath M'Baye, who entered the NBA Draft last year after his junior season. M'Baye was born in France.
“I'm getting him to teach me four or five sentences so I can talk a little bit,” Hornbeak said. “It'll be my first time in Europe. I'm really looking forward to waffles and crepes. Amath was telling me about some cinnamon thing that was real good, too.”
The Sooners will fly to Dallas and then to Paris on Tuesday before bussing to Belgium, where the Sooners play Thursday through Saturday. They'll then play in France on Aug. 14-15.
The trip was organized by Basketball Travelers, which put together similar tours for OU's women's team in 2004 and 2008.
“They always identify a level that's comparable to what you play at home,” Kruger said. “There will be good teams and it'll be very challenging. They know our team and know what to try to match up our competition with.”
Oklahoma leaves Tuesday for a 10-day trip to Belgium and France. Here's a look at the players who are expected to be on the Sooners roster for the trip. Two junior college players — Keshaun Hamilton and Edson Avila — are expected to join the Sooners after they return.
D.J. Bennett, junior, forward
After redshirting last season, Bennett figures to play a prominent role in a frontcourt that is in rebuilding mode.
Frank Booker, freshman, guard
The 6-foot-4 freshman averaged 27.9 points and 4.1 assists as a high school senior in Augusta, Ga., last season.
Cameron Clark, senior, guard
Saw action in 32 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds off the bench.
C.J. Cole, redshirt freshman, forward
The 6-foot-7 forward from Sperry averaged 21.6 points and 16.6 rebounds as a senior in helping his team to its first-ever state tournament appearance.
Isaiah Cousins, sophomore, guard
After starting the first 10 games of last season, Cousins started just four games the rest of the way and finished averaging 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds.
James Fraschilla, junior, guard
The walk-on saw time in 15 games over the last two seasons.
Daniel Harper, freshman, guard
The Norman native averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists with the Tigers.
Buddy Hield, sophomore, guard
One of the key pieces of last year's NCAA Tournament team, Hield will not play on the trip after aggravating a foot injury during practice. He will travel with the team, though.
Je'lon Hornbeak, sophomore, guard
Hornbeak started the final nine games of the season and 29 overall in averaging 5.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman.
Austin Mankin, freshman, forward
A sophomore academically, Mankin shot .418 from behind the 3-point line as a senior in high school in 2011-12.
Tyler Neal, senior, forward
Neal saw time off the bench in 27 games for last year's Sooners, averaging 1.1 points and 1.4 rebounds.
Trey Slate, freshman, guard
The Gore native is on the roster after serving as OU's team manager last season.
Ryan Spangler, sophomore, forward
Spangler is back after sitting out last year following his transfer from Gonzaga, where he averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds off the bench as a freshman.
Jordan Woodard, freshman, guard
Woodard helped Edmond Memorial to the Class 6A title last season, hitting a buzzer-beating tip-in while playing on an injured hamstring in the championship game.