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Arizona’s overseas trip meant to be a cultural experience, with a little basketball sprinkled in

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Arizona will play three exhibition games during a 10-day tour of Israel and Abu Dhabi, but the basketball part of the trip is way down on the list of Tommy Lloyd’s priorities.

“It’s great for our team and great for the culture that we’re trying to build,” Lloyd said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any way but to bond on one of these deals.”

The team left Wednesday and were set to arrive in Tel Aviv on Thursday, spending six days in Israel that will include a trip to the Dead Sea as well as other significant points of interest in and around Jerusalem. The last four days will be in the largest city of the United Arab Emirates, where it will visit the Abraham Accords House and the Grand Mosque, among other sites.

Lloyd said the players are taking a class in conjunction with the trip, with a UA professor coming along as part of the traveling party.

“I think it’s going to be an experience that will stick with them for the rest of their lives,” Lloyd said.

As for the basketball itself, those details are still being finalized. The Wildcats will play the Israel Select Team in Tel Aviv on Monday (Aug.14) at 9 a.m. MDT, while their two opponents in Abu Dhabi and the dates of those games are to be determined. They could be facing other national squads, as several (including Team USA, Germany and Greece) will be in town to play each other ahead of the FIBA World Cup that’s set for Aug. Aug. 25-Sept. 10 in Indonesia, Japan and the Phillippines.

he trip was organized by Complete Sports Management, which is the group behind the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and the Bahamas Bowl, while Athletes for Israel (AFI) and Abu Dhabi Department of Tourism are the UA’s sponsors. AFI also brought Kansas State overseas, and those Wildcats will be sharing a flight to Abu Dhabi with Arizona.

It will be Lloyd’s first trip to Abu Dhabi, while he’s been to Israel several times. Most of the UA players have not, save for Pelle Larsson, who was there last August for a game with the Swedish National Team.

“I’ve never been outside the country,” San Diego State transfer Keshad Johnson said last month. “I didn’t really start traveling state to state until AAU. That was my first time leaving California. Hawaii was the farthest I’ve ever been.”

As for the games themselves, Lloyd said nothing should be read into the performances, rotations or minutes distribution. Arizona’s entire team didn’t get together as one until the past few weeks, the result of several players spending time in Europe playing for their respective countries in FIBA competition.

“If you’re going to try to read into who we’re playing and how much this guy is playing or not playing, you’re going to waste a lot of your time,” Lloyd said. “Blow your August. Everybody’s gonna play. I’m literally telling myself that I’m gonna have a different starting lineup every half. This is about guys getting experience, not necessarily about winning or losing games.

“Are we game ready? Probably not. But we’re probably closer than I think. I think our guys will be ready to go. And the cool thing is we’re gonna be able to play everybody and really give a lot of guys good basketball on-court experience.”

Lloyd said the entire trip, not just the games, will allow him to see how his players handle adversity, and how they react.

“Traveling is not easy, and going halfway across the world with a group of 50 people, there’s going to be some adversity,” Lloyd said. “There’s going to be heat, humidity, different foods, jet lag. I just like to see how everybody responds to that. Do we rally around each other and help each other through it, or do we do we use it as a built-in excuse? I’m just looking for those experiences and as things pop up, I’ll figure out how we want to look at things and address certain situations, but to be honest, I want it to be really organic.”