Montana basketball completed the 10th and final practice Wednesday allowed by the NCAA ahead of its trip to Costa Rica for a pair of exhibition games.
“Most of the work is done,” head coach Travis DeCuire said before the practice. “This is a little tuneup today. It’s all excitement about the trip. I think we’ve gotten everything we wanted to get out of (these practices).
"Last night we had a good, competitive practice and saw where guys are. Now I’m looking forward to see how we progress against good competition.”
Senior Fabijan Krslovic said the focus has been on introducing new concepts, especially on the defensive side, and playing with a competitive attitude.
“With the new guys coming in and learning, it’s been a bit of a process to get adapted to everything,” Krslovic said. “I think the progress has been big over a short time.
“If we make mistakes, that’s fine, but (the coaches are) happy if we’re trying to do the right things and playing hard and playing at a high level. Mistakes are going to happen, but it’s just how we react to them and how you maintain your level of effort and compete.”
DeCuire said the four freshmen are “farther along than we expected,” and he’s been especially impressed with the play of guard Lars Espe.
“Lars Espe has been incredible in terms of his ability to create for others,” DeCuire said. “We knew he would share the ball, but his ability to create shots has been huge for us. He’s the one who stood out the most.
“Karl Nicholas has been a monster on the glass. His activity has been great. Timmy (Falls’) confidence and ability to defend is usually what you don’t get out of freshmen. Kelby Kramer, a kid we expected progressing down the road, is competing a lot sooner than we expected. He’s blocking shots. He’s playing with a sense of confidence that sometimes you don’t get out of a 7-foot freshman.”
The Griz will leave early Thursday morning for Costa Rica and arrive late Thursday night. They are scheduled to play the Costa Rican national team Friday and Laurentian University — a college from Sudbury, Ontario — Saturday.
Montana’s trip to Costa Rica from Aug. 3 to Aug. 8 will cost the team approximately $15,000, all of which was privately funded.
The trip has an estimated cost of $80,000 to $85,000, according to associate AD for business operations Ryan Martin. It was offset in part by $70,000 from Basketball Travelers Inc. — which calls itself “America’s leader in organizing exciting, memorable and unique tours and tournaments” on Twitter — in exchange for Montana agreeing to participate in the 2018 Great Alaska Shootout, Martin said.
DeCuire and the program used funds they’ve raised in the past through their basketball excellence fund to come up with the remaining $15,000, Martin said.
According to a contract between Montana and BTI drawn up on June 8, 2016, and signed by Montana athletic director Kent Haslam on Aug. 4, 2016, Montana has to pay BTI for the tour package, which BTI requires be a minimum of 20 people. Montana is also responsible for obtaining visas, passports and other identification; securing travel and medical expenses; and incidentals including phone calls, laundry and shopping, among other things, in Costa Rica.
BTI will pay for roundtrip coach airfare from Missoula, a first class hotel, a charter bus for the team while in Costa Rica and a BTI escort during the tour. Montana has to pay for transportation to the airport in Missoula and any additional luggage charges.
While BTI will pay for daily breakfast at the hotel, Montana is responsible for lunch and dinner.
BTI will provide a minimum of two sightseeing excursions, gifts to all tour participants and an “optional organized team scavenger hunt.”
BTI is also responsible for any sanctioning fees with USA Basketball and foreign basketball federations.