Will Wade is not a gambling man.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach estimates that he's been to Las Vegas on recruiting trips at least 20 times in his young career.
"I've never set foot in a casino," he said. "When I'm there, I'm there to work."
Wade is taking his Mocs on an eight-day road trip -- scheduled by former coach John Shulman -- to Reno to play Nevada tonight, to Los Angeles to play UCLA in fabled Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, then to Las Vegas to play Morehead State on Thanksgiving Day and then either IUPUI or Gardner-Webb next Friday.
The four-game trip allows UTC to play similar competition and face one of the legendary teams of the sport, and it provides an opportunity to build relationships and friendships within the traveling party.
"It's getting away from class, getting to a different surrounding with our team. That's one thing I'm looking forward to," sophomore Casey Jones said. "I feel like this is going to bring us closer as a team and enjoy a different environment with each other and play some good basketball."
The trip begins with a stop to play the Wolfpack in what Reno boasts in bright lights as "the biggest little city in the world."
The Wolfpack (2-2) of the Mountain West Conference are led by guard Deonte Burton, who is averaging exactly 25 points per game.
"If we can't guard the ball, then it's going to be a long night," Wade said Wednesday morning after reviewing video from UTC's 73-69 loss to Kennesaw State. "We need to clean up what we're doing."
After playing in Reno, the Mocs will fly to Los Angeles and play UCLA on Sunday night. Monday is a scheduled fun day in L.A. for the Mocs, including a stop at In-and-Out Burger as well as a few other surprise stops.
"Getting into a different surrounding with our team is one thing I'm looking forward to," senior captain Zaccheus Mason said. "I feel this will bring us closer together as a team and enjoy a different environment with each other, and play some good basketball as well."
The entire trip is part of the Las Vegas Invitational.
"I've never been to California, period," Jones said. "I want to see the different culture. I want to see how different it is from college. I'm definitely excited to see L.A., enjoy the sun and sightseeing."
Then it's off to Vegas.
UTC will have four days between playing at UCLA and facing Morehead State in the Orleans Arena. That is time for the Mocs to build on what they have learned already this season by losing two close games to comparable competition.
"I don't look at this trip and think we need to win three games, [or] two games and get a split," Wade said. "I want to play well every game. We have to stick with the process and coach our guys and get them better."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...