Gauchos Open Practice in Preparation for 10-Day, 5-Game Tour of Eastern Canada

UC Santa Barbara's Jaime Serna, left, and Orlando Johnson, right.
UC Santa Barbara's Jaime Serna, left, and Orlando Johnson, right.

The UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team opened practice last weekend for its 10-day, five-game tour of eastern Canada.  The Gauchos will leave Santa Barbara on Sept. 4 and return on Sept. 13.

"This trip will be a tremendous opportunity for us to integrate our newcomers with our returning players," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams.  "Not only do we get the five games, but we also get 10 practices in and that is really invaluable."

The Gauchos will return many of the key players who helped them win their second straight Big West Tournament and advance to their second straight NCAA Tournament, including two-time Big West Tournament MVP Orlando Johnson, two-time All-Big West choice James Nunnally, All-Big West Tournament honoree Jaimé Serna, 7-foot-3 center Greg Somogyi and guard Troy Leaf.  Johnson and Somogyi played for the U.S. and Hungarian national teams, respectively, at the World University Games in China and their playing time may be limited on the trip to Canada.

In addition to the key returnees, UCSB will add junior point guard Nate Garth and sophomore forward Keegan Hornbuckle to the mix.  Garth, a transfer from New Mexico, and Hornbuckle, a transfer from Colorado, sat out the 2010-11 season as redshirts. 

Five freshmen will also be eligible to make the trip to Canada.  Although guard John Green (Oakland, Calif./Westwind Prep Academy in Phoenix) will not play because of a foot injury, forwards Alan Williams (Phoenix, Ariz./North HS), Taran Brown (Gillette, Wyo./Campbell County HS) and Lewis Thomas (Perth, Australia/Australian Institute of Sports) and point guard T.J. Taylor will all play.

"This will be really good experience for the freshmen and transfers," Williams said.  "Not only on the court, but just being together for 10 days will help us grow in so many ways.  The guys will really have a chance to get to know each other."

The team will depart from Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 4.  They will play their first game in Toronto on Monday, Sept. 5 when they play ABA Canada, a club team.  On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the Gauchos play at the University of Toronto.  UCSB will travel from Toronto to Ottawa on Wednesday where it will play a pair of games.  On Thursday, Sept. 8, they play at Carelton University and on Friday, Sept. 9 they are at the University of Ottawa.  After a day off to travel from Ottawa to Montreal, the Gauchos will play the final game of the trip on Sunday, Sept. 11 when they take on Concordia University.

UCSB will remain in Montreal on Monday before returning to Santa Barbara on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

In 2011-12, the Gauchos will play one of their toughest schedules ever.  Included in the home schedule are marquee games against UNLV and San Diego State, as well as Big West match-ups against rivals Long Beach State and Cal Poly.  Season tickets will be available on Friday by calling 805-893-UCSB, by visiting the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, or by clicking here.