NAU Men's Hoops...Ready for the Bahamas
In just a few days, the Northern Arizona men's basketball team will be in Nassau, Bahamas for the "Summer of Thunder" tournament.
For a team that is making a name for themselves around the Big Sky, this trip might be just what the Lumberjacks need for a preseason boost. NAU finished tied for second in the conference last season, while ending two of the Big Sky's longest home win streaks.
Bewernick is a dominant inside presence for NAU, whose specialty is rebounding. He knows that this extra time spent practicing is a special opportunity that many teams don't get.
"I think it's big for us, especially with the guys that we have," said Bewernick. "Most of us are returners, but we have some new guys so it's good for us to all get a feel for each other early."
Upshur, a junior transfer a year ago, is ready to get the season started. The reigning Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and First Team All-Conference honoree will be making his second international trip of the summer. In May, Upshur had the opportunity to compete for the USA Eagles squad and participate in a tour across Asia.
"Going to Asia was a really good experience for me," said Upshur. "It was an opportunity for me to play against professional players and it gave me an insight into international basketball. I know that this will be another great trip. One of the biggest things that championship teams have is chemistry and I think that this is going to bring us closer together."
This trip gives the Lumberjacks a chance to get a few extra practices in before the start of the collegiate season, while also bonding as a team.
"I think it's good for us," Bewernick said. "Outside of practice we still hang together. We like to go to the movies and out to eat. As a family, I feel as if we are all a lot closer than we were last year and something like this helps. I think we have grown so much off the court, that is has brought us together much more on the court."
Upshur also believes that this is a great opportunity for the Lumberjacks. "We're a little ahead of the game thanks to being able to practice for the Bahamas. We have our eyes set on winning a conference championship, so it really helps us that we're making this trip."
Although the fact that the team gets to go to the Bahamas in a few days may not have set in yet, Bewernick and Upshur know that once Saturday arrives the excitement will kick in.
"We've talked about the whole experience, but it won't really hit us until we're on the flight," said Upshur.
NAU will leave on Saturday for the Bahamas. The Lumberjacks first game will be on August 12 versus the Commonwealth Giants, while their second game will be against IBA Elite. All games will be played at the Sir Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium in Nassau.
In addition to NAU, other participating teams include: University of North Carolina; University of Mississippi; Ohio State University; Morehead State University; University of Tennessee Chattanooga; Alabama State University; University of Kentucky; University of Cincinnati; Portland State University; Whitman College; Louisiana Tech University; University of Pittsburgh; and Stanford University.