Aug. 19, 2007
SEATTLE (AP) -- James Clauss does not have any expectations that he can improve the skills of the Washington basketball players, but does hope that he'll enrich their lives well beyond the basketball court.
Clauss, the University of Washington's incoming director of the Honors Program, will accompany the Huskies on a 10-day basketball tour of Greece beginning Aug. 27. He will be part of a unique educational opportunity in which the players can pick up five credits tossing around Socratic quips as well as jump shots.
"We're trying to dispel the notion it (Greek philosophy) does not have value," Clauss said. "I can't promise their jump shots will get better. It's never made mine better. I'm hoping they're going to come back here really changed and open to their intellectual side."
The NCAA allows college teams to take part in an international tour every four years. This is the first time that coach Lorenzo Romar, entering his sixth season at UW, has taken a Husky team abroad. Since the institution is in the business of education, it was decided that the trip also should hold educational value.
Kim Durand, associate athletic director for student development, worked with Romar and Clauss to develop a learning component to their travels.
"The idea was to get something out of the experience, academically and culturally," Romar said. "As opposed to just a basketball experience."
Friday, Clauss brought the players together for the first of 10 classes before the team departs. His first task was to show the players the 1989 movie "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure." It's about two underachieving high school students that go back in time. They meet and bring back to their classroom historical figures such as Joan of Arc and Napoleon in what turns out to be tangible learning experiences.
During the trip, Clauss will conduct one-hour daily classes to underscore Greek history, philosophy and architecture. He also will supplement his insights during their city tours.
"I hope during the 10 days we are there they can explore and really take in the sights. I think it will be beneficial to the guys," said assistant coach Paul Fortier, who played 16 years in Europe, including Greece.
The learning won't end with ancient sites and carved statues. Clauss' class will put an emphasis on the philosophies of Socrates and Plato. When the team returns, he's going to have the players take on an issue and write it in a Socratic style. They will debate the issue by instant message on computers, save the message text then hand it in to Clauss.
Romar said one of the players who changed his body shape during the summer was junior guard Justin Dentmon. "It's as if someone carved some of his flesh off," Romar said. "He's streamlined. His quickness is better. His athleticism is better." ... Nine players will make the trip as incoming freshman are not allowed until they are enrolled. ... Romar plans to play five games against Greek pro teams.