| March 22, 2018

Men’s Basketball: Bigger than Basketball

Idaho men’s basketball announced at the Big Sky Media Day Tuesday that the team will jumpstart the season with an exhibition game at the University of Oregon.

Unlike the other preseason exhibition games, all proceeds from the game will go to the Red Cross to benefit victims of the devastating wildfires that took over the Gorge outside of Portland, Oregon late this summer.

The opening game of the season presents Idaho with multiple opportunities beyond simply the experience of playing a tough Pac-12 school on the road.

The Oregon Ducks went 33-6 overall last season and 16-6 in conference play, ending the season with a Pac-12 championship and a long run to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.

Senior guard Victor Sanders said it is the perfect primer for the Vandals as they already are looking ahead to the Big Sky Tournament.

“We are just trying to get ready for when we go to Reno for the Big Sky tournament,” Sanders said. “This will simulate a tough road trip, being able to get on the road on a bus to the game for a couple of hours, bus to the game and then play and then bus right home it’s just gives us a good chance to face some adversity.”

While some are looking ahead, senior forward Arkadiy Mkrtychyan sees the game as a chance for the Big Sky favorites to prove themselves.

“I’m excited to play against a big team like that, the excited part is another opportunity to show how good we are to a big team in front of big exposure,” Mkrtychyan said.

Playing in front of a home crowd typically means playing in front of Idaho fans, but the trip to Oregon will be a different type of home crowd for the Oregon natives.

“Definitely a venue that is close to family, you know a lot of family can make it and friends it’s just a great location and a great team for us to play to get ready for the season,” senior guard Victor Sanders said.

But the game is more than simply a chance for Idaho to play a big team or for some to play at home. It is a chance for the Vandals to play for a cause, a cause that hits close to home for Mkrtychyan.

“It’s sad cause all the Multnomah area that burnt down is really pretty, green, a lot of animals and I go there to hike when I’m home for the summer almost every week I’m there probably honestly and it’s just a lot of people didn’t get hurt but it was something sad to happen,” he said.

Regardless of the scenario, the exhibition game goes to show something bigger in sports.

“(It) just reminds you playing that basketball helps you achieve things that are bigger than basketball, you know you’re helping people with their lives,” Sanders said.

Idaho will hit the hardwoods for the first game of the season against the Ducks at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Matthew Knight Arena.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on twitter at @mere0415

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