March 14, 2012
SPRINGFIELD -- For the first time in the history of the program, the Missouri State men's basketball team will take a summer international trip when the Bears embark on a seven-day foreign tour of Costa Rica, Aug. 7-13. The trip will combine practice and a series of exhibition games with a unique cultural experience for the student-athletes. And, thanks to a generous donor, the trip expenses will be completely covered with private funds.
Head coach Paul Lusk said the trip not only keeps Missouri State on par with some of the nation's top programs, but will provide the players a unique educational opportunity.
"From the standpoint of recruiting and keeping us competitive on a national level, this is monumental for our program," Lusk said. "There are obvious competitive advantages a trip like this provides -- getting to practice together in the summer, playing good international opponents and giving our team a chance to begin bonding. But, the bigger picture is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience. It's an opportunity that supports our University's statewide mission in public affairs and reflects our program goal to develop well-rounded student-athletes."
The Bears will be afforded a maximum of 10 practices before leaving the U.S. and will play at least three exhibition games in Costa Rica. Lusk indicated the team will also take part in at least one significant community service initiative on the trip.
NCAA rules permit Division I schools to participate in one out-of-season trip abroad every four years. However, cost and other factors have deterred Missouri State from being able to take advantage of this provision in the past.
With philanthropic support making the Costa Rica opportunity a reality, MSU Director of Athletics Kyle Moats said the trip is a natural step in the continued evolution of Missouri State basketball.
"Donor support is 100-percent responsible for making this trip possible," Moats said. "We are extremely grateful for the generosity of our supporters who play such a large role in keeping our teams competitive.
"Having JQH Arena as a premier on-campus showcase, starting the Jim D. Morris Basketball Complex project, and staying on the cutting edge competitively with trips like this are laying the foundation for Missouri State's future. Broadening that foundation with additional donor support and by increasing our fan base will be vital to our long-term success."
Coach Lusk also extended his gratitude to the donors that made the Costa Rica trip possible.
"I'm so grateful to family that made this gift to our program and for providing us with this opportunity," Lusk added.
The Costa Rica trip is the second significant, basketball-related gift provided by a donor in the last week. On March 7, a major gift from Jim D. Morris, a Springfield philanthropist and long-time MSU supporter, was announced. The basketball complex that will bear Morris' name will include facilities such as team locker rooms, coaches offices, a team video room, athletic training facilities and an academic study area for the Bears and Lady Bears at JQH Arena, which opened in 2008.
Lusk, who will begin his second season as head coach of the Bears, will return seven scholarship players for the 2012-13 season, including five players who started 11 games or more this season.
NCAA rules allow incoming student-athletes (freshmen and transfers) to participate in foreign-tour events. Rules also allow players to experience a foreign tour just once during their intercollegiate careers.