MISSOULA – Can I interest you in a summer vacation to Costa Rica?

A group of Montana Grizzlies are jumping at the chance to make the trip later this week, but they will gain much more than some time in the sun.

The Griz men’s basketball team leaves on Thursday for five days in the Central American country. The NCAA allows for a trip like this once every four years, and they also let teams practice 10 times to prepare for the journey, so head coach Travis DeCuire and company are getting a headstart on the season.

With a handful of transfers and freshmen expected to compete for playing time, the trip couldn’t come at a better time.

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“When you’ve got so many guys that want to play — we bring in six new faces — it’s going to be difficult to get those guys ready to play between September 29th (the first official practice) and November 10th (the Grizzlies’ first game),” said DeCuire. “So you broaden that window a little bit. You get a chance to introduce some of the concepts to these guys as a group, as opposed to just individual work and small groups.”

While the help with Xs and Os can put the Grizzlies ahead of the game, six days in a new place could bring something else even more important to the Griz.

“The bonding is always a big portion of it,” said the third-year head coach, who is going with the Grizzlies on a foreign trip for the first time. But DeCuire has taken three simliar trips with other schools, and felt the benefit of a week of bonding.

“The stronger your chemistry, the better you’re going to perform,” he continued. “And for us to go play two games in two days, and then have another three days to do some community service, get a chance to bond a little bit and hang out, they should come back a lot closer than when we got on the plane to leave.”

The Griz will play scrimmages against the Costa Rican National Team as well as a college from Canada, help out in the community with stops at an orphanage and a homeless shelter, and enjoy some of the local tourist attractions before returning next Tuesday.

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