During the summer of 2002, the men’s basketball team went on an exhibition tour throughout Italy, but this off-season, each Eli player had to find his own method of recreation. But whether studying in Spain or practicing against NBA players, the members of the team had one common goal — to prepare for the 2003-2004 season.

Forward Justin Simon ’04 and captain Matt Minoff ’04 stayed in New York City where they worked out together. Up north at the University of Ottawa, Scott Gaffield ’04 followed the varsity lifting program and played pick-up basketball. Paul Vitelli ’04 spent much of his summer in the gym lifting and shooting. He could also be found battling some of the top names in basketball at the Jersey Shore Basketball League. The competition included ACC, semi-pro, and NBA players such as Golden State’s Troy Murphy.

On the Iberian peninsula, Alex Gamboa ’05 stayed in shape by running hills and running on the beach.

“While I studied in Alicante, Spain, I was able to play outside in intense heat and lift in a very poor weight room, but enough to keep me going,” Gamboa said.

Upon returning home for the last month of summer, Gamboa adhered to a strict gym routine, lifting four days a week and playing every day.

Regardless of where or how the Bulldogs trained, they returned to school prepared to take on the rigors of preseason workouts. At Yale, the Bulldogs have been lifting three days a week as well undergoing intense conditioning on the court every Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the players scrimmage each other.

Each player is also required to do two individual workouts with a coach every week, in an effort to sharpen fundamentals and help new players become acquainted with the system.

“We have a quality group of young men, we have no weaknesses,” head coach James Jones said. “[Once practice officially starts] we will evaluate what we need to work on the most and move on from there.”

The team hopes to improve on last season, when they finished 14-13.

“I saw the season as a success in terms of having a winning season,” Jones said. “However, we were better than our record showed.”

The Bulldogs lost three starters to graduation — Ime Archibong ’03, Chris Leanza ’03 and T.J. McHugh ’03.

“We lost a lot of scoring with Chris and T.J.,” Minoff said. “We lost a lot of experience because they were three guys who had played since they were freshmen.”

The team does have two returning starters in Minoff and Edwin Draughan ’05. Vitelli, Josh Hill ’05 and Gamboa also saw lots of playing time last season.

“Alex Gamboa is going to be a key to our team being a success,” Minoff said.

Yale is also anticipating the debut of Dominick Martin ’05, who transferred from Princeton after his freshman year and was ineligible to play last year due to NCAA regulations.

The freshman trio of Casey Hughes ’07, Sam Kaplan ’07, and John Shumate ’07 have already impressed their teammates.

“All three freshmen bring a lot of athleticism,” Gamboa said. “They are all very talented with a ton of potential and will only make this team better as they compete with us for playing time and push the upperclassmen to be better players.”

The team will officially begin the season on Oct. 18, the first date practices may be held under NCAA regulations.

“We are going to start the year off like we normally do and have a midnight practice,” Jones said.

However, there will be no Midnight Madness held for Yale basketball fans.

“The team needs to focus on the tasks at hand, not celebrate when we haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Simon said.