In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.
Thirty-six-year-old Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross had never done one of these summer trips with a team. He had such a good time, his biggest hope is the NCAA continues to allow them to happen and even at a more-frequent rate. A lot of his players hadn’t ever been on a plane before -- never mind the fact they’d never left the country, or even Texas in some cases.
UTA took a flight up to Vancouver in August; his team went 5-0.
“I believe I became closer with each of the guys that went on the trip,” Cross said.
The team went undefeated in five games, outscoring opponents an average of 112-62. Cross was especially happy his group shot 47 percent from 3-point line, with 49 3s, adding, “I don’t know if we could have done that in shoot-around” last year.
When it wasn’t playing, there were the typical-yet-fun excursions for the group. The zip-lining, walking along the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was a challenge, as Cross is just a bit afraid of heights. They also went up Grouse Mountain, Vancouver's highest point, via gondola.
What Cross learned: The 24-second shot clock is a swift kick, and his guys did adjust and adapt to its nature very quickly. His team learned how to really run, which they weren’t elite with last season.
What impressed him: Sophomore Shaq White-Miller, who split time at the point and excelled in the team’s practices. Last year White-Miller turned the ball over too frequently, way too frequently in fact (41 percent of his possessions). That factored in to UTA turning the ball over 25.3 percent of the time, the fifth-worst rate in the nation.
On the trip, White-Miller had 35 assists and eight turnovers. “He’s the guy who’s going to pick up the opposing team’s point guard immediately. If you want a description of what UTA defense looks like, you like at Shaq.”
Cross said Cameron Catelett played the 1 and the 3, and he shot 7 of 12 from 3-point range. He’ll be diverse. The team will grow to embrace this interchanging in its backcourt and should be better for it.
What concerned him: “The defensive rotations would be the main thing, although the effort was there. It’s almost like you don’t want it to be too good.”
-- Injuries: Kevin Butler, a transfer from TCU, tweaked his hamstring in the third game, but he’s fine and practicing.
-- If Cross had to put a starting five on the floor tonight, it’d be Whiter-Miller at the 1, LaMarcus Reed III at the 2, Butler at the 3, Bo Ingram at the 4 and Jordan Reves at the 5.
-- The team had the second-youngest team in the country last season and finished 13-16. Cross is downright determined to turn it around and is confident there will be an uptick in the win column.
“We were right there in all of our games,” Cross said. “We didn’t get blown out in any.”
-- That turnover number needs to come down to at least 20 percent if it wants a chance at winning the league.
-- Conversely, when asked about this team’s strength, Cross said the team’s speed and shooting are the group’s biggest strengths.
-- Who didn’t go on the trip? Two foreign players who’ve not been cleared through the NCAA. Bojan Mihajlovic Karol Gruszecki. It’s an amateurism issue right now; the NCAA has taken awhile to determine if either player received too much money while playing overseas before coming to UTA. Cross said he’s been waiting a “long, long time” for a response. The two have been in summer classes, and “any day now” they’ll know one direction or another, so they can move forward.Photo via UTA athletics