Over the next 12 days, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team will get another taste of what life is like as a professional.
The Mustangs begin a six-game road trip at 7 p.m. Monday against Saint Mary’s, something that has become an annual tradition under seventh-year head coach Joe Callero.
With final exams in the rearview mirror, Cal Poly will spend the better part of the next two weeks playing four games in four cities and traveling more than 2,000 miles. Callero calls the road swing “our pro time,” with the Mustangs set to play one game every three days.
After taking on the Gaels on Monday night, Cal Poly will travel down to Los Angeles to face Pac-12 opponent USC at the Galen Center. From there, the Mustangs are scheduled to play three consecutive games in Texas, starting with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at noon Sunday.
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They’ll face UT San Antonio on Dec. 22 before getting a short break for Christmas and returning to the Lone Star State for a Dec. 29 meeting with Texas A&M.
“It’s also a large portion of our supplementary budget stuff,” Callero said.
Cal Poly (5-3) will get paid for playing Saint Mary’s, USC and Texas A&M, while Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UT San Antonio will come to San Luis Obispo next winter to complete the home-and-home series.
Many of the Mustangs have been a part of long road trips during their careers, including a seven-game swing last season and a trip overseas this past summer. That experience will certainly be a factor against a trio of NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents.
Saint Mary’s won six consecutive games to begin the season before losing to Cal in Berkeley over the weekend. Sophomore point guard Emmett Naar is among the most efficient 3-point shooters in the country and leads the Gaels in scoring at more than 14 points per game.
A native of Sydney, Australia, Naar is shooting 65.4-percent (17-for-26) from behind the 3-point line and is second on the team with 45 assists. Junior guard Joe Rahon is averaging 11.7 points per game and has handed out a team-leading 50 assists as part of a two-man backcourt that Callero termed, “spectacular.”
Callero said Naar compares favorably to former Saint Mary’s guard and current Cleveland Cavalier Matthew Dellavedova, who played for the Gaels from 2009-13.
“He has got tremendous vision,” Callero said. “Good size Australian that can shoot it.”
The Mustangs are coming off a wire-to-wire victory over Fresno State their last time out, arguably one of the team’s best nonconference wins in Callero’s tenure.
Seniors Joel Awich and David Nwaba have accounted for much of Cal Poly’s offensive production. Awich leads the team in both points (13.9) and rebounds (6.6) per game, and has blocked a team-best eight shots.
Nwaba averages 11.8 points per contest and leads the Mustangs with 44 assists and 16 steals. He’s also second on the team with more than six rebounds per game.