BERKELEY -- The 2011-12 regular season doesn't begin until November, but the California men's basketball team will hit the court for five early games when the Golden Bears take a 10-day European tour in August. Cal's schedule includes visits to Sweden, Norway and Denmark and contests against the Norwegian and Danish National teams.
All of the funds to pay for the trip have been raised through private donations within the Cal basketball community.
"You're allowed a trip every four years by NCAA rule," Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said. "We saved it for this year because we lost just one player, and all of our incoming players and our redshirts from last year will be eligible to go. It's the best opportunity to gain some experience, heading into a year that we're really excited about. Over the years, it's proven to be a tremendous opportunity for kids to grow as a team, so we wanted to take advantage of this."
After arriving in Stockholm, Sweden, on Aug. 13, Cal will play the Solna Vikings on Aug. 14 and Uppsala on Aug. 15. Following the two games in Sweden, the Bears will then bus to Oslo, Norway, and face off against the Norwegian National team on Aug. 17. The next day, Cal will hop on a boat and venture to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the Bears will play the Danish National team on Aug. 20 and 21 before returning to the United States on Aug. 22.
Besides the basketball games, the team has planned sightseeing tours of Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. While in Stockholm, the Bears will visit the Vasa Museum, which exhibits a warship that sunk in 1628 and was recovered in 2009, and in Denmark, the Tivoli Amusement Park.
Cal's last two overseas trips have resulted in NCAA Tournament appearances the following seasons. The Bears went to France and Italy in 1996, then reached the Sweet 16 in 1997. Cal also traveled to Italy in 2005 before earning a tournament berth in '06.
The Bears are coming off an 18-15 season in 2010-11 that saw them advance to the second round of the National Invitational Tournament. After being picked to finish seventh in the conference, Cal tied for fourth in the Pac-10.
The Bears return four starters, led by first-team All-Pac-10 selection and team MVP Jorge Gutierrez, who paced the squad Cal with a scoring average of 14.6 ppg. Allen Crabbe, the 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, set the school's freshman record for three-pointers made (62). Senior forward Harper Kamp and junior guard Brandon Smith are also back. The Bears will welcome returning reserves Bak Bak, Nigel Carter, Emerson Murray, Jeff Powers, Richard Solomon and Robert Thurman, as well as 2010-11 redshirts Justin Cobbs and Alex Rossi. Only center Markhuri Sanders-Frison, a senior last season, will not be in the '11-12 lineup.