SAN LUIS OBISPO – First-year head coach John Smith's initial season in charge of the Cal Poly men's basketball program will have an August beginning as the Mustangs embark on a nine-day, four-game tour of London, scheduled for Sept. 1-9.
NCAA programs are allowed one foreign tour every four years with recent trips by Cal Poly comprising visits to France (2015), Costa Rica (2011) and Australia (2007). Per NCAA rules, programs participating on a foreign tour are allowed 10 practice sessions prior to departure. Cal Poly's preparation gets underway on Friday, Aug. 16.
"The extra 10 days of full practice, as we gear toward our foreign tour, will definitely help us fine tune some aspects of our offensive and defensive schemes," said Smith ahead of the trip, which was funded 100 percent from program donors. "I've been very impressed with how well our players have picked up a new system in such a short period of time. In the last two weeks, we've been able to add a hefty portion to both our offensive and defensive identity."
Cal Poly, which returns three starters and six letterwinners from last year's squad and welcomes six new Mustangs – including two graduate transfers and the activation of four players who redshirted last winter – departs for London on Sunday, Sept. 1 and arrives the following afternoon. After settling in and some brief sightseeing, Cal Poly's first official game occurs on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. PT) versus the Surrey Scorchers of the British Basketball League, the top level of competition in England and Scotland.
The following evening, Cal Poly faces Barking Abbey Academy at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. PT).
The Mustangs will enjoy a formal tour of London on Thursday, Sept. 5 with stops including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
Following another London excursion on Friday, Sept. 6, Cal Poly returns to the court at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. PT) to square off with the London Lions inside Copper Box Arena. Defending British Basketball League champions, the Lions also captured last season's BBL Cup competition to become just the fourth different club to complete the domestic double.
"The games in London will provide clarity for how effective we can be in executing our system against live opponents with a wealth of experience," Smith said.
Cal Poly will visit the seaside town of Brighton on Saturday, Sept. 7 before completing its four-game schedule at 6 p.m. (10 a.m. PT) versus Team Solent Kestrels, who compete in the National League Division 1 (second tier).
The Mustangs will have a free day in London on Sunday, Sept. 8 before flying back to Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 9.
Cal Poly's four games in London will include the implementation of FIBA rules with select differences including shot clock time (24 seconds with a 14-second reset following an offensive rebound, compared to the NCAA's 30-second shot clock), game duration (four 10-minute periods instead of two 20-minute halves) and the ability to swat or tap a ball after it has contacted the rim (a goaltending violation in the NCAA).
During the offseason, the NCAA changed the men's three-point distance to 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches, the same depth as FIBA.