LAFAYETTE – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball player Frank Bartley has recently been in this position before.
In May, the senior guard was part of a 10-member Reach USA squad that spent two weeks on a tour of China as part of a Friendship Tour of the Far East. Now, nearly three months later, the Baton Rouge native and his teammates will travel out of the country when the Ragin’ Cajuns take a week-long trip to Cuba beginning on Monday.
Louisiana, which will make its first foreign trip in men’s basketball since a 10-day visit to Spain in 2013, will be the only NCAA men’s basketball team to visit the island nation this summer. The Ragin’ Cajuns will play three games (including the Cuban National and Junior National teams) during its trip while participating in a pair of kids clinics.
“It’s going to be a great experience … it’s going to be a different experience,” Bartley said. “A lot of our guys have never been out of the country. We’ll get to experience what kind of food that they have, we’ll get to see the people and the culture. It’s going to be a great learning lesson for us and will give us memories for the rest of our lives.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns will arrive in Havana on Monday, opening with a tour of the city and a stop at the La Triada Cigar store on the agenda. While in Havana, the Ragin’ Cajuns will visit the U.S. Embassy, take a Four Square Walking Tour, visit the Main Havana Arts and Crafts Market and take part in Salsa lessons.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for our young men to travel to Cuba with all of the history in that country and the presence of what’s going on right now between our two countries,” head coach Bob Marlin said. “The guys are looking forward to it and it will be a great opportunity to learn and grow as a team.
“We’ll have a couple of clinics for young children, our guys will be involved with those and certainly the young children in Cuba don’t have a lot as far as equipment. So these guys will be like rock stars and it will be very good for them to give back. And to do that in a country with their history is something I think you’ll never forget.”
Louisiana will play on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Havana before departing for Varadero and participating in a Kids Clinic on Saturday in Mantazas. The Ragin’ Cajuns will also visit Cueva de Saturno – one of the natural wonders of Cuba – on Saturday before departing home on Sunday.
The week-long foreign trip, which the NCAA allows each Division I school to make every four years, will give the Ragin’ Cajuns the first chance to face outside competition after preparing with 10 practices during the summer
“The timing is good for us because we have three guys (JaKeenan Gant, Marcus Stroman and Malik Marquetti) who sat out last season, plus two freshmen in Cedric Russell and Elijah McCoy,” Marlin said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to get a head start on next season, put the uniforms on so to speak and play in game-like conditions. I know the three transfers are ready to suit up.”