VALPARAISO | If there was one thing that Homer Drew could be counted on during his tenure with the Valparaiso men’s basketball team, it was an early season destination tournament.
The longtime coach regularly scheduled multi-game trips to Hawaii, Arizona and Las Vegas throughout the years as well as recent trips to South Padre and the Virgin Islands during his second stint with the Crusaders.
When Bryce Drew took over the program in 2011 those road tournaments became a thing of the past; replaced by home games that have been extensions of other tournaments. The latest being the Ohio Classic, which resumes tonight when Valparaiso plays host to Mercer at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders will wrap up the four-game event against Cincinnati Christian on Saturday night.
“Scheduling these tournaments happens in waves,” Drew said. “We’re working on things for next year that could take us on the road, but we’ve also enjoyed being a part of tournaments that have allowed us to play in some home games as well.”
Not until the Crusaders travel to Orlando next month for the Jackson Hewitt UCF Holiday Classic will a Bryce Drew-led team play back-to-back games in the same road arena. Drew is not a fan of unnecessary travel during the non-conference and that could be a reason why trips to Hawaii and Alaska haven’t shown up on the schedule.
“I do think the more you travel, it does catch up to you,” Drew said. “We like to stay as close to home as we can, but I also do think there is a benefit for a few days on the road. That helps with team bonding and the chemistry.”
With the exception of the lack of travel, this week’s schedule mirrors that of what the Crusaders will likely have to go through in the Horizon League tournament. There is an opening game on Tuesday before back-to-back games on the weekend. Drew didn’t plan the schedule that way, but he’s certainly willing to take advantage of the calendar.
“It’s just something that worked out that way,” Drew said. “Every team reacts differently. We’ll see how this team performs and then we’ll make any adjustments we need to make for the next time we have back-to-back games.”
The Crusaders (4-3) face a stiff test against a Mercer team picked to finish second in the Atlantic Sun conference this season. Unlike UCF, the Bears (4-3) are a road-tested squad that lost a close game at Texas and have home wins over Seton Hall and Yale.
Despite having another game Saturday night, Drew will not play conservative and monitor minutes against Mercer.
“Every time we take the floor we’re trying to win,” Drew said. “We’ll worry about Saturday when we get to Saturday. Right now we’re focusing on getting a win against a really good basketball team.”