Men’s basketball left the cold in favor of the tropics Tuesday, heading to Nassau, Bahamas for the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase.
The showcase marks the first international tournament for the Colonials in more than 20 years. GW is slated to play three games in as many days, teeing off against UMKC Friday.
Head coach Jamion Christian said the trip simulates the tournament-style play the team will see in the postseason and provides players with valuable experience for quick game turn-arounds.
“You don’t get a chance early in the year to really test yourself in that kind of environment,” Christian said. “We’re always going to be judged by how well we do in March, so we always want to put ourselves in a position to learn how our body is going to respond in situations like that.”
Hosted in March, the Atlantic 10 Championship spans five days, with teams possibly seeing action every day of the tournament. Christian said players need to prepare for the physicality, endurance and mental stamina the championship demands.
“We’ve got our athletic trainer here, we have our strength coaches here so we’re obviously going to be stretching a ton and lifting a ton just to get our stamina and those kind of things,” Christian said. “I think mentally, we do a lot of meditation so I think mentally it’s going to be about being able to loosen ourselves.”
The tournament will also give the Colonials an opportunity to work out kinks away from Foggy Bottom. Holding a 1-3 record in four games this season, GW has experienced some growing pains associated with a new coaching staff and fresh faces on the roster.
Christian has frequently highlighted three-point shooting as one of the key components in his offensive strategy, but the Colonials rank last in the A-10 conference beyond the arc, owning a .274 shooting percentage. The squad has taken over twice as many three point shots as its opponents this year.
During the Bahamas showcase, Christian said he hopes to establish a rhythm for the team’s rotation. So far this season, freshman guard Jameer Nelson Jr., senior forward Arnaldo Toro, freshman forward Jamison Battle, sophomore forward Mezie Offurum and junior guard Maceo Jack have seen the most minutes on the court.
“We’re really trying to settle into our rotation with our team,” Christian said. “We’re trying to settle into an offensive understanding within our group. And I think every game we’re playing, we’re learning more and more about our group.”
GW currently ranks No. 11 in the A-10 offensively, averaging 65.8 points per game with a -1.5 scoring margin. But three Colonials – Toro, Nelson Jr. and Battle – average double-digit scoring.
Christian said traveling internationally exposes the squad to different techniques and reinforces GW’s tradition of international diversity.
“On the floor, it bridges these different styles of play obviously, and in all the parts of the world they play a different brand of basketball,” Christian said. “The chance to bridge that gap between how they play in Spain, where Javier is from, or how they play in the Caribbean where Toro grew up. I think that’s really special.”
East Carolina, Evansville, Milwaukee, Morgan State, Rice, UMKC and Liberty will join the Colonials for the showcase. Liberty is the only team that held a winning record in the 2018-19 season and continued its regular season success, reaching the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament.
This season, the Colonials have already faced off with Morgan State. The squad fell to the Bears 68–64 after holding a 10-point lead at the half. The Colonials were without Toro, but Christian said after the game Toro should be back to form for the showcase.
Christian added that team ventures outside of Foggy Bottom facilitate a stronger bond among the players, which results in a stronger bond on the floor.
“Any time we’re able to take them out of the environment that they’re all so comfortable in and put them in a place where they have to bond closer together and they have to do something together, it’s just better,” Chrisitian said.
The Colonials are back in action Friday as they take on UMKC. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m.
Emily Maise contributed reporting.