Northern Iowa basketball grows with overseas trip

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s men’s basketball team is headed to Italy in August for a little education, team-building and basketball.

It’s in that particular order, according to associate head coach Kyle Green.

“These trips are as much about the education part, the team bonding, the experiences that you have off the court as on the court,” Green said.

As far as basketball is concerned, Green and the rest of UNI’s staff gets 10 extra two-hour practices with their team this summer leading up to its overseas trip Aug. 1. After playing three games, seeing the sights and enjoying Italian food, the Panthers head back to Cedar Falls on Aug. 11.

“We’re going to Rome. We’re in Venice. We’ll just experience (all) those things,” Green said. “So, there’s so many of our guys, you know, like most of us, have not had those experiences. To get a chance to do that as a team I think will pay dividends in a lot of ways when we hit the season.”

With seven freshmen — four on scholarship — the value of extra practices are obvious. However, incoming freshman Cole Henry — a 6-foot-9 forward from Oskaloosa — recently dislocated his knee while working out at home and will not play during the trip after what Green called a “minor surgical operation.”

Austin Phyfe, who received a medical redshirt after missing nearly all of the 2018-19 season with vasovagal syncope, is on track for full participation this summer, including the trip to Italy. Green said he’s continued to have no ill effects.

“(Austin’s) had a great spring, early summer,” Green said. “Knock on wood. He’s been doing well and (he’s) excited to get back at it with the guys (this) week.”

When it comes to the recently announced rule changes in college basketball, Green said he’s in favor of the 3-point line moving back and the shot clock resetting to 20 rather than 30 seconds on offensive rebounds.

“I’m a big fan,” Green said of the 3-point line’s move. “I think it’ll help the game in a lot of ways. In particular with low-post scoring and the ability to penetrate and score. I think it’ll help space the floor. I think guys that can make that (3-point) shot last year are going to be the same guys that can make that shot this year.”

Green also shared his thoughts on the NCAA’s transfer portal, which has been in the spotlight and under scrutiny since its inception in October of last year.

“I think that we’re trending toward free agency,” Green said. “I think that it won’t be too long (until) the transfers won’t have to sit out.

“I’m kind of the mind-set that if we’re going to get to that point, let’s go. Let’s get to where we’re going to go, make the rules, and we’ll all adjust. Whatever’s causing it, it’s here. And I don’t think it’s going to go the other way. At the end of the day, the way I think about it, it puts an emphasis on us as coaches to have great relationships with our players. Which is what we should do anyway.”