FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – The NCAA now allows basketball teams to take a foreign trip in the summer every four years, and the UNA men’s basketball team took full advantage of that this year, spending a week in Dominican Republic to bond, see somewhere new and grow as a team.

UNA played two games and came back to Florence with two wins. The first game was against the Dominican Republic Select Team, made up of former Division I players with various pro experiences.

The Lions also got to explore a little bit and learn about new cultures, as many of them had never been out of the United States before.

This year’s team features some top returners and six newcomers so head coach Tony Pujol said the whole trip was a valuable experience and really gives them a head start for the upcoming season.

“The one thing that I did get out of it was these guys came out and competed. And that was something that definitely was a plus for me with this group,” Pujol said. “So I think if you’re really looking at what we wanted to get out of this, number one besides them just getting more cohesive, it was to see what we have in the program and I’ll be honest with you, I saw a lot of positives. Some of our guys, going to the Dominican Republic is like you and me going to the moon. They were in awe as soon as they got off of the plane. For me, anytime that you have an opportunity to show these young men how other parts to the world live, their cultures, it’s an eye-opening experience and you become very grateful for what you have.”

UNA will open the 2023 season on Nov. 6 against Blue Mountain Christian.