BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- They won't know the language, won't be able to easily find a pizza and will need a translator everywhere they go. But the team of Southeastern Conference all-stars heading to Japan isn't worried.
"My attitude is, 'They're going to adjust to me,"' said LSU coach John Brady, co-coach of the SEC team. "I'm not moving there, you understand. I'm just visiting."
Brady, along with Mississippi coach Rod Barnes, assembled the team of all-stars in Birmingham last Sunday for few days of practice before they take off Thursday for their 10-day, five-game tour of Japan.
One would think the obvious language barrier would keep the fiery Brady out of trouble with the Japanese referees. He isn't so sure.
"There are some phrases that are universal," Brady said.
And just to be on the safe side, Brady joked that SEC official Kerry Sitton would accompany the team "so we know we're getting cheated from both sides."
"I'm going to have to learn a few Japanese phrases," said forward Sam Haginas, Alabama's representative. "Hopefully, the interpreter will help with the rest."
Barnes, who took the Ole Miss basketball team to Australia two summers ago, said young people don't always realize how far they can go with basketball.
"I'm thankful basketball has taken me places I never would've gone otherwise," Barnes said. "Basketball has been a great vehicle."
The trip to Japan will be a lot more than just basketball. The five games will be played in five different cities with train trips in between, allowing the group to see the country as they go. They will visit the Hiroshima memorial and spend an extra day in Tokyo, where the final game will be played.
The original idea was to include one player from each league team. But Vanderbilt is sending its own team to Europe, so the SEC team will have only 11 players.
The team is made up of Haginas, Auburn's Doc Robinson, South Carolina's Tony Kitchings, Tennessee's C.J. Black, Kentucky's Saul Smith, Florida's Major Parker, Mississippi State's Tang Hamilton, LSU's Brian Beshara, Ole Miss' Marcus Hicks, Georgia's Adrian Jones and Arkansas's Brandon Dean.
Don't expect the SEC team to walk over the competition. According to Brady's scouting report, the Japanese national team features players that stand 7-foot, 6-11 and 6-9 and average 28 years of age.
Aside from the 6-foot-10 Kitchings and the 6-foot-9 Haginas, the SEC team will be at a height disadvantage. And a familiarity gap.
The Japanese national team has played together before in international competition, but the SEC team has been practicing together only since Sunday.
Win or lose, Brady said the trip will be invaluable.
"You enter into coaching for several reasons, one of which is you enjoy relationships and appreciate the value of relationships," Brady said. "This is a chance to enjoy a different relationship with Rod Barnes and the players."
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