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GSU basketball team trains in Costa Rica

Fresh off of a surprising season that saw it get a win away from the NCAA tournament, the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team is taking its act outside the country.

On Friday, the team will fly to Costa Rica. In the three days following, the Eagles will take on the Costa Rican national squad, the U23 national team and another national select squad.

“It’s a fun and unique opportunity,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “We have some guys who had to do some scrambling to get their passports, but we’re all looking forward to the trip and for a chance to compete against international teams.”

The trip comes on the tails of a full load of summer workouts. The NCAA allows each team 10 full practices during the summer, and the Eagles — who return just four players with game action from last season — used up every minute.

Byington said the team has been coming together well during practice and that the trip to Costa Rica should further help build chemistry.

Team-building also is being done by the Eagles’ veterans even though most are still underclassmen.

“I feel a little bit for the new guys,” sophomore guard Jake Allsmiller said. “We’ve definitely been going at it a little harder in practice this summer. We know we’re going to be a young team this season, but we’re ready for that challenge.”

Allsmiller added that the trip will serve as good preparation for the still-green Eagles, as nearly every player on the Costa Rican teams will be older, including some with professional experience.

Aside from playing outside of their comfort zone, the Eagles also will have to change their strategy a bit. All three games will be played by FIBA rules — the same used in the Olympics.

“We’re only going to have a 24-second shot clock,” Byington said. “So we’ll need to keep the pace high. The three-point line is also a few inches farther back. I think that’s all right. We want to play with a lot of energy this season and I think this will help.”

Following the trio of games, the Eagles will get a chance to tour their destination Tuesday before returning to the United States and preparing for the beginning of the fall classes.

Later in the semester, practices will resume as Georgia Southern builds toward the 2015-16 season tip-off in November, which features a date with defending national-champion Duke.

“We need to use these games as a chance to get ready for what’s coming,” Allsmiller said. “We play in a tough conference, and we’ve got trips to places like Duke on the schedule.

“This definitely isn’t like high school anymore.”

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