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Men’s Basketball Takes to Italy: Day Five

Men’s Basketball Takes to Italy: Day Five

Tuesday was the team’s only full day in Florence.  Tomorrow, we pack up and head to our third stop of the tour – Vicenza.  This morning, we split into two groups to go on a walking tour of the attractions that aren’t too far from our headquarters at the Grand Hotel Baglioni. 

The first place we went was to the Accademia Galleria, which houses Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture, David.  In fact, one entire room in the galleria is dedicated to many of his works.  It’s incredible to think that in the year 1501, he took a large block of marble, raised it up, built scaffolding, and then chiseled it into what became a 17-foot tall statue of David in only two years.  Our tour guide explained that his talents were first discovered by Lorenzo the Magnificent, Italian ruler during the Renaissance period.  Michelangelo originally started as a sculptor in the Medici family garden as a teenager.

The exquisite detail with which he sculpted David was impressive to see in person.  From veins in his arms and neck to the facial features, it didn’t seem like Michelangelo missed a thing.

From there, we visited the most famous cathedral in Florence – Duomo di Firenze.  It is officially named the Basilica di Santa Maria del Flore.  We then proceeded to what our guide labeled the “most famous bridge in all of Europe” – the Ponte Vecchio.  Its English translation simply means, the “old bridge.”  We stood on it and took pictures looking out both directions over the river.  When we walked up a block, we were able to look back on the Ponte Vecchio to see its age.  The bridge is over 600 years old.

After the two and a half hour tour, players and staff were given free time for lunch and to further explore the city.  Some of the supporters went out on a short wine tasting excursion, although I declined to take part.  That’s not typically my thing.  Instead, I relaxed in the room for a while before heading out into the open market.  The streets near our hotel house these open-air shops, which sell anything from leather to luggage to souvenirs to jewelry.  I later made it up to the rooftop of our hotel to enjoy sunset overlooking the city, it provided a nice view with a rare breeze we haven’t felt much of since we’ve been in Italy.

Tomorrow is another busy travel day.  We make a three-hour trek to the Adriatic Sea area and play our third game, versus the Vicenza All-Stars.  So far, the teams have not provided the stiffest competition.  But in my opinion, it’s more about building team camaraderie and unity than it is Xs and Os, or wins and losses.  Hopefully, the team continues to come together as we reach the halfway point of our journey through Italy.

Hopefully, you’ve viewed our postgame highlights from the first two contests.  We apologize for the audio not being better quality for our postgame interviews.  Apparently, we have a bad mic cable and when I try and move it from myself to Coach Brownell or a player for a question, it cuts in and out.  On top of that, last night’s gym was so hot it fogged up our video camera’s lens cap, darkening the interviews.  We’ll continue to work it until we get it right.  We just appreciate you checking out basketball coverage this time of the year!

Since the video was too dark to upload of the player I interviewed after last night’s game – K.J. McDaniels – I decided to meet up with he and fellow junior Rod Hall for a quick Q&A as we prepare to say arrivederci to Florence.

Q: Through two games, the shot clock has been a big difference in terms of the number of possessions you have offensively.  Has it been fun playing with a 24-second clock?Hall: “I think it’s fun.  You get a better chance to get going, instead of passing the ball around a lot to get a shot.  The main thing is trying to find your teammate as quick as you can.”

McDaniels: “It was a little shock at first to know we’d be playing with a 24-second shot clock.  But since we’ve been practicing with it, it’s helped us play faster and execute quicker.”

Q: What have you learned about the teammates that are with you on this trip, and what you can accomplish this coming season as a group?Hall: “We can make more shots than we did last year, everybody’s been shooting the ball pretty well.”

McDaniels: “Everybody has more confidence playing here and seeing shots go in.  It’s building.”

Q: It seems that there has been a greater awareness for cheering on a teammate from the bench, have you noticed that?McDaniels: “That will be important for us going into the season.  Since we’re not a big team, we’ll have to rely on that energy and effort.  It will really help us out a lot.”

Q: What’s been your favorite sight through two cities in Italy?Hall: “I would say the Colosseum.  The facts they told us about the fights and how everybody enjoyed them was interesting.  Also, it still had a lot of original pieces left.”

McDaniels: “I would have to agree, the Colosseum.  I’ve seen it in a lot of movies, but to be there in person was kind of amazing.”

Q: You guys have spent a lot of time with your teammates, how has the bonding been so far?McDaniels: “It’s getting everybody a lot closer.  We’re starting to know each other better, and feel more comfortable telling each other stuff.”

Q: Rod, your shot has been improved here in Italy.  Was it an offseason focus to make defenses more accountable for honoring your shot?Hall: “I’ve been working on my shot all summer.  Every time I get an open shot, I’m going to take it.  I’ve had to build confidence up in my shoulder, because it was messed up in the past.  I’ve gotten a lot better shooting the ball.”

Q: The defense has applied pressure through two games in Italy, will we see that continue you heading into the season?Hall: “Everybody seems to be gaining confidence in their defense, by pressuring more.  It’s all about knowing your teammates have your back.”

Q: K.J., what will this experience ultimately mean for the 2013-14 team?McDaniels: “I believe the biggest lesson is having each other’s back.  We’re coming in to a foreign country, and we don’t know anyone but each other.  It’s created more of a brotherhood, knowing your teammates have your back.”

We will document the team’s travel day on Wednesday, as well as the game against the Vicenza All-Stars.  Keep checking for all the latest coverage!


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