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Friday, July 13, 2012
Eurotrip! Harvard finds way around rule


College basketball coaches love the rule change that allows them to work out their current players for two hours a week if they're in summer school.

A few have said recently that it's the best decision the NCAA has made in more than a decade.

But what if you don't have summer school? What then?

Well, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker found a way to even the playing court a bit: take a foreign trip.

The Crimson, who are coming off their first NCAA tournament trip since 1946 after winning the Ivy title outright, have set their sights on Italy, where they'll be Aug. 18-28.

But the Ivy League and the NCAA still can be stubborn. The NCAA allows incoming freshmen to go on foreign trips, but only if they've been enrolled in summer school in advance of the trip. If there is no summer school -- and there is not at Harvard -- then they can't go.

So the program's heralded four-player freshmen class, which is expected to keep the Crimson atop the league standings, won't be able to go on the trip. That means touted prospects like power forward Agunwa Okolie of Canada and 6-10 center Mike Hall of Atlanta can't get a jump start on the season.

Amaker said it's a shame these freshmen won't experience a foreign trip. The NCAA allows teams these excursions only once every four years, so this group will have graduated by the time the next one comes around.

"In some ways, the kids not being able to go to summer school makes us very attractive,'' Amaker said. "We love that our kids are engaged in other things with internships. We encourage that. They do have internships in Boston and can use the facilities, but we can't work them out.''

Amaker did use his players for an elite camp in June, but the rules were strict.

"They were working the camp and doing normal things a counselor can do at the camp,'' Amaker said. "We can use the coaches and players as demonstrators, but can we work them out in the gym by themselves? No. They can demonstrate drills. But we can't take them on the side and do basketball things with just them.''

The Ivy also limits the number of practice days a team can have before a foreign trip to five. Every other conference can get 10.

"But we will make this as productive and as enjoyable as possible,'' Amaker said. "We will get plenty in during the five days.''

The Crimson did lose seniors Keith Wright and Oliver McNally, but another Ivy League title is the expectation. A strong core returns with Kyle Casey, Laurent Rivard, Brandyn Curry, Steve Moundou-Missi and Christian Webster, in addition to the four freshmen.

As for the regular-season schedule, Amaker said it's still being finalized. Last year, the Crimson began their special season in earnest with a Battle 4 Atlantis tournament title run in the Bahamas. Harvard won't be in an early-season tourney this time around, but will play at rising UMass during the ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon on Nov. 13.