Aug. 3, 2012
ATHENS ----- Georgia’s basketball team said arrivederci to its homeland Friday when it left on a 10-day tour of Italy.
During their 10 days, they’ll see virtually all of the sites that make Italy such a popular tourist destination. In their first couple of days, the Bulldogs will take in Duomo di Milano and Lake Como. Later they will cruise the canals of Venice, check out Michelangelo’s David, marvel at the Leaning Tower, and visit UGA’s campus in Cortona.
And that’s before they ever get to Rome.
Lest anyone forget, the Bulldogs will also manage some competition amidst their sightseeing. Georgia is slated to play games against a variety of professional and club teams on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday of next week. Combined with the 10 pre-trip practices Georgia had, the entire experience will give Bulldog coaches a clear idea of their team heading into the 2012-13 season.
“Without question, we see this is as a business trip,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “It’s a chance for us to really improve as a team. We’ve been able to practice together as a team and see what they can do. But it’s also an educational trip. We’ll have a chance to do some fun things.”
For Georgia’s players, it’s the first time out of their country for most, with one exception. Sophomore forward Nemanja Djurisic hails from a nation (Montenegro) just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, so this trip represents a near-homecoming for him.
“I went to Rome a few years ago, but I’ve never seen the whole of Italy,” he said. “It'll be a great chance for my teammates to leave the U.S. and see another part of the world. We're very excited to get over there, and to have the opportunity to get ahead with practices and workouts.”
For senior guard Vincent Williams, the trip will give Georgia another opportunity to prove itself on the court. “We want to win, for sure,” he said. “We’ve very excited to be going and we’ll have some fun, but we want to get out on the court and play to win.”
Georgia’s players will no doubt encounter difficulty in the transition from the collegiate game to international rules. The lane is wider, the 3-point strip farther away, and even the ball is vastly different. Not to mention the shot clock shrinks to 24 seconds.
In addition to the different rules, Georgia will play these three games with two more customized parameters. Fox has divvied up the head coaching duties to each of his three assistants – Kwanza Johnson, Philip Pearson and Stacey Palmore – each taking a turn at the helm. Additionally, all 13 players will see nearly equal amounts of playing time, another step toward full evaluation of the 2013 Bulldogs.
“We’re going to make sure everyone gets a fair set of minutes to get some experience,” Fox said. “Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope), I love him, but he’s not playing 40 minutes a game. We know what he can do. I need for these other guys to play.”
The Bulldogs will return to Athens next Sunday, Aug. 12, just in time to start Fall Semester the following day. Regular dispatches from the Bulldogs' trip can be found at www.georgiadogs.com and on Twitter @UGABasketball.