Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
AUGUST 03, 2017

Sooners Down Under

The Oklahoma men's basketball team heads down under for a 12-day tour of New Zealand and Australia featuring four games of international competition.

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Three of OU's four games will feature a one-camera Facebook Live stream, while the Australian Sports Network will provide a full broadcast via YouTube for the Sooners' contest against the Sydney Sharks on Aug. 10.

Streaming Schedule
Date Opponent Time (CT) Live Stream
Aug. 5 New Zealand Select 10 p.m. Facebook Live
Aug. 9  Sutherland Sharks 4:30 a.m. Facebook Live
Aug. 10 Sydney Kings 4:30 a.m. YouTube
Aug. 13  Cairns Taipans 1 a.m. Facebook Live

Sunday, August 14 - Australian Rainforest

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Oklahoma's final day Down Under wasn't short of adventure. Before a late afternoon game, the Sooners headed up into the hills surrounding Cairns to visit the village of Kuranda. The village offered markets of local trinkets, a collection of (caged) venomous creatures and a small zoo offering close up interactions with koalas and wallabies.

Although the trip up to the village was via bus, the Sooners traveled back down on the scenic route. The group broke off info small groups and took a "skyrail" cable car system with breathtaking views of the rainforest from above. The journey offered a few stops along the way with walking trails and photo lookouts.

After the final sightseeing excursion, the Sooners got back to business in their final exhibition game of the tour. OU defeated the Cairns Taipans of the NBL, 110-85, to finish the tour a perfect 4-0.

Saturday, August 13 - Great Barrier Reef

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With the days Down Under winding down, the Sooners spent all of Saturday sightseeing one of the most beautiful and unique places on earth - the Great Barrier Reef. Following a two hour boat ride from the Cairns marina to the outer reef, the Sooners were treated to an afternoon of sea exploration with a variety of options that included glass-bottomed boats, snorkeling and scuba diving.

While some Sooners opted to stay dry, most of the team took grabbed a mask and fins and went looking for some marine life. A few brave players even learned to scuba dive for the first time and dove deeper through the coral reef. It was an incredible day of team bonding and taking in the unique wonder of the reef alongside teammates and staff - and a day that will likely be remembered for a very long time.

Friday, August 11 - Heading up the Coast

Cairns Marina

After three days in Sydney, it was time for the Sooners to take off for their final destination. The team too an early morning flight to the tropical Queensland city of Cairns (pronounced “Cans”), nestled along Australia's northeastern coast at the base of a mountainous rainforest.

The group arrived in Cairns in the midafternoon and used the rest of the day to explore the town's boardwalk, seafood eateries and downtown shopping. Tomorrow the Sooners head out onto the water for a full day excursion to visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef.

Thursday, August 10 - Teambuilding Down Under

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The morning after a resounding 129-51 win, the Sooners began their final day in Sydney with a teambuilding activity that combined seeing major sights and working together to complete tasks. The “Amazing Race” style competition pitted the 12 Sooners in three teams of four (upperclassmen, sophomores and newcomers) and featured challenges such as singing in front of the Sydney Opera House, teaching strangers how to shoot a basketball and finding historical landmarks. The rookie squad of Ty Lazenby, Brady Manek, Hannes Polla and Trae Young took home the first-place honors.

Similar to Wednesday, the players had the afternoon off to sightsee on their own or rest up for their second game in Sydney.

At night, OU improved to 3-0 with a 104-89 win over the Sydney Kings. Trae Young put together his third-straight 20-point game, finishing with 21 points and six assists. RECAP | ARCHIVED GAME

Wednesday, August 9 - Sightseeing Sydney

Team at Harbour Bridge

There wasn't a cloud in the sky as the Sooners strolled through the Sydney Harbour on Wednesday morning, taking in beautiful blue water, bay of sailboats and the world-renowned Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. After taking plenty of pictures at the city's landmarks, the team headed inside the Opera House for a tour of the building - including backstage and rehearsal areas and the concert hall. PHOTOS

After the tour, the players were given the afternoon to sightsee on their own and rest before their game against the Sutherland Sharks. The Sooners displayed a solid team effort on both ends against Sutherland, rolling to a 129-51 victory. RECAP | ARCHIVED GAME

Tuesday, August 8 - Off to Australia

Team at Bondi

After an early wake up call for a 7 a.m. flight, the Sooners departed New Zealand on Tuesday for their second of three cities on the foreign tour - Sydney. Upon landing in Australia's largest city, the team took a short bus tour to Bondi Beach. The group ate a late breakfast and had time to explore the cliffs and sands of the world-famous beach before driving to a scenic overlook of the Sydney skyline. PHOTOS

The Sooners arrived at their hotel in the Sydney Harbour in mid afternoon and were given the rest of the day to sight see on their own. The squad is back in action on Wednesday night at 7:30 against the Sutherland Sharks (4:30 a.m. CT) on Facebook Live.

Monday, August 7 - Right at Home in Auckland

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It's a monumental life decision when international student-athletes choose to leave their home and family for four years to study and compete at the University of Oklahoma. For Matt Freeman, the Oklahoma basketball family has done nothing but embrace him and make him feel at home while living away from in New Zealand. After a year and a half in Oklahoma as a member of Lon Kruger's basketball program, Freeman had the incredible opportunity to show his new family his first home.

The Sooners began their final day in Auckland visiting Freeman's alma mater - Westlake Boys High School. Upon arrival, the team was greeted with a traditional Maori welcome and was treated to a small assembly highlighting Maori traditions, including a performance of a traditional Haka. After the Westlake students proudly practiced their cultural traditions for their American visitors, the Sooners headed into the gymnasium to shoot around and put on an impromptu basketball clinic.

Upon leaving the school, the team took a ferry across the Auckland Harbor to beautiful Waiheke Island for an afternoon of sightseeing. Afterward, the ferry returned to the mainland and the group hopped on a bus headed for Freeman's home.

Freeman's parents, John and Louise, welcomed the entire team, coaching staff and group of OU supporters into their home to repay the Sooners for the hospitality that's been shown to their son thousands of miles away.

Team at Westlake

“It's been amazing,” said Louise. “We've been looking forward to it for months. I knew it was going to seem quite surreal to have everybody who cares for Matt in Norman to be here in our home...That's his new family. We'll always be his new family here, but that's his new family. We've loved it. It's such a quick trip but we'll hold onto those memories for a while.”

For Freeman, the team's three days in Auckland will have a lasting effect on both his family in New Zealand and his Sooner family in Norman.

“It was great fun,” said Freeman. “A once in a lifetime opportunity to have everyone in our home...I knew the days would go real quick, but I think we did plenty of stuff that made most of the trip. Looking back on it, I had some learning experiences and surreal moments myself. In the country I grew up in we still went to places I've never been before and it was great having everyone there with me.”

Sunday, August 6 - First Full Day in New Zealand

Team at Mt Eden

The Sooners had a busy first full day in Auckland, combining sightseeing with an afternoon game. The team "warmed up" for their exhibition opener by climbing up the volcanic cone of Mount Eden. The viewpoint is the highest natural spot in the city and provided breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, the surrounding towns and the Auckland Harbour.

SPECIAL GUESTS

While waiting in the hotel lobby to head to shootaround, the team ran into two young basketball fans asking for a picture with the players. As Coach Kruger spoke with their father, he learned that the boys had traveled to Auckland from Wellington, New Zealand, to see the Sooners play as a reward for recent hard work in school. Kruger invited the boys, Bruno and Sebastian, to ride on the team bus to shootaround and help the team rebound during warmups.

Practice Guests

STARTING OFF WITH A WIN

The team opened its foreign tour with a 133-91 win over New Zealand Select inside the gym of Auckland Grammar School. The Sooners were paced by a pair of freshmen with guard Trae Young racking up 21 points and four assists and forward Brady Manek adding 17 points. The matchup was especially meaningful for redshirt Matt Freeman, who grew up in Auckland and had many family members and friends in attendance. Freeman posted eight points and a pair of rebounds. FULL RECAP

Saturday, August 5 - Arrival in Auckland

Team at airport

It was a long 32 hours of traveling for the Sooners, but after flying over 10,000 miles the Oklahoma men's basketball team is on the ground in Auckland. Due to the 17-hour time difference, the Sooners landed in Auckland at 3 p.m. on Saturday local time - which is 10 p.m. on Friday back home in Norman.

After being greeted at the airport by members of the Freeman family, the team checked into their hotel downtown and headed to a light practice at Auckland Grammar School. Coach Kruger wanted his players to stretch their legs and get some shots up after such a long trip, and the hour-long practice did just that. The Sooners have a short turnaround, playing in their first game Sunday afternoon (Saturday at 10 p.m. CT) against New Zealand Select. The game will air live on Facebook Live. PHOTOS

Thursday, August 3 - Departure

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The Sooners are on their way "Down Under" - departing Norman early Thursday afternoon. The team will fly from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles before its long trip to Auckland, New Zealand that includes a 15-hour flight from LAX to Sydney, Australia. The team is expected to arrive in Auckland on Saturday at 2 p.m. local time (9 p.m. on Friday in Oklahoma time).

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It turns out the Sooners weren't the only basketball players flying to Los Angeles on Thursday. The team ran into Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook as it boarded the plane.

Freeman Heading Home

Matt Freeman

The trip will be especially significant for redshirt-sophomore forward Matt Freeman, who will visit his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand, with his teammates.

“It's going to be pretty special,” said Freeman. “For me, the amount of time I get to go home is very limited during the year, so anytime I get to go home is meaningful. It's extra special that I'll get to be there with my other family – getting to take everyone home that's close to me here and show them where I've been brought up. It's going to be a really memorable trip and really fun too.”

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