MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- Ryan Saunders bore a wide-eyed look on his face. His expression spoke for itself, echoing the sentiments of the team.
"It's nice to play against outside competition," said Saunders, who is entering his sixth season as Barry University men's basketball assistant coach. "We've been fighting against each other in practice, beating up each other. We get to take that out on someone else. It's definitely going to be nice to play against someone else."
Someone else is the Chile National Team, whom the Buccaneers host 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Barry University's Health & Sports Center in an exhibition game.
Chile, which competes professionally in FIBA and international competition, has a team with an average age of slightly over 21 and a player, point guard Erik Carrasco, who at 29, is one of the team's better talents. Chile has finished as high as third in the FIBA World Championships, competed in the Olympics four times and plays against the likes of other top international competition and NBA pros.
Barry will be the first of a handful of Sunshine State Conference schools Chile will compete against in a Floridian tour.
"It's a great opportunity for our guys to play against guys with international experience," Saunders said. "We're bringing in pro guys. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a tough game. I think it'll be a different from the type of games we'll play in the regular season."
Different because of the international flavor, perimeter-oriented style and adept ball movement Chile and FIBA teams exhibit. It a game the Bucs are trying to pattern themselves after.
"We've been talking about playing that FIBA-type of game," Saunders said. "We want to mimic the unselfish style of the internationals. Also, it's going to give us a chance to defend. Guys like Damien (Dwaine) are used to defending on the low post."
Defending, and not strictly on the perimeter is a necessary evil the Buccaneers, who usher in the likes of five new players and another who has yet to suit up in Red and Black, is something acting head coach Orlando Gonzalez, who takes over this year on an interim basis for 18-year head coach Cesar Odio, is preaching. Not many of the schools on Barry's regular season schedule fit that mold, let alone give them a true opportunity to defend regularly around the perimeter.
"The international IQs are very high," Saunders said. "Hopefully, through that we can maybe boost our game, our intelligence."
All the IQ and smarts aside, this is the first opportunity for newcomers like forward Aaron Martin and Filip Toric, seniors who've played at high collegiate levels, and seniors Chad Renfro, Bryan Van Cott, Justin McCoy and Vladimir Raymonvil to begin laying a foundation for a team trying to climb the SSC ladder in a hurry.
"They're going to have to play with a sense of urgency," Saunders said. "For guys like Justin, Chad, Bryan, Vlad and the rest of the returners, they're anxious to get going to right the ship from last year. For guys like Aaron, Filip, Garrett (Naughton) and Bouna N'Diaye it's a chance to get accustomed to the system. The coaching staff is ready to roll, too."
As are many who bleed Buccaneer Red and Black.
Indeed, college basketball is back.
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