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Arizona men’s basketball to play exhibition tour in Israel, Abu Dhabi

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-international-tour-israel-abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates-exhibition Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For as much traveling as Tommy Lloyd has done in his coaching (and brief playing) career, never before has he done so with a squad of players in tow.

That will change later this summer, as Arizona is set to play exhibition games in the Middle East. Lloyd confirmed the trip on Friday while meeting with reporters.

“I’ve never done a foreign tour, so I’m excited for that,” he said. “As you guys know, I love to travel and see different places.”

Details are still being worked out, but Lloyd believes his team will play at least three games split between Israel and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The trip is expected to take place in August, finishing up in time for the start of the UA’s fall semester on Aug. 21.

It will be Arizona’s first foreign exhibition trip since 2017, when it traveled to Spain and won a pair of games before the third was canceled due a terrorist attack in Barcelona. The UA has also done trips to the Bahamas (2012), Canada (2006), Australia (1993, 1997 and 2002) and across Europe (1985 and 1989).

“I think the competition is going to be great,” Lloyd said. “I don’t think you’re going to see us be playing a bunch of thrown together, all-star makeshift teams. We’ll be playing real teams and real games in real venues. And I think that’s really valuable for us.”

Arizona has added seven new players for the 2023-24 season, some of whom have yet to join the team. Lloyd said the entire squad will be together by late July, when it gets an opportunity to practice before heading to the Middle East, but tempered expectations from the exhibition games.

“We’re not going to go into his foreign trip and try to be in perfect game shape and try to be perfectly polished,” he said. “We’re gonna go over there and play a lot of guys, just get some experience. We’ll learn from the good and from the bad.”

As much as the trip will provide Lloyd and his staff with an early glimpse of the new team they’ve assembled, that’s not what he’s looking forward to most about the trip.

“I’m looking forward, for one, just the life experience for our guys,” he said. “I haven’t been to Abu Dhabi. It’s an extremely unique place, and I think for our guys to go there and get that experience will be something they’ll remember more than the games for the rest of their life. I still think college needs to be about those things. You show guys, you show young adults what it is to travel, and maybe they get a little bug. And I think the more people travel, I think the better, more well-rounded people they become, and the more perspectives they see. If that’s something I can pass on to my players for me, I would love to do that.”

Gonzaga never took a foreign trip during Lloyd’s 20-plus years on the coaching staff.

“I don’t know if you’ve been to Spokane, but the summers are really nice ... and the winters aren’t, so you probably want to take advantage of staying close to home when the weather is good,” Lloyd said. “Here, it might not be a bad idea to bounce out of town once or twice in the summer.”