With the trip drawing to a close, junior Mike Morrison shares some final thoughts before the Patriots board the plane back to Fairfax:
Our trip to Italy was more than my team and I could have ever expected. We really had a good time on and off the court. I was most happy to go to Rome and see the Colosseum, but to also see the Vatican, Leaning Tower of Pisa, the statue of David, all the paintings and sculptures, and the large and beautiful Lake Como was more than I ever could have imagined.
On the court we all got a feel for each other while we made a lot of great plays. Playing the games was very fun. We had to overcome numerous adversities such as rules changing from game to game, 100 degree gyms, and not speaking the same language as the refs. Playing was probably one of the best experiences of the whole trip, because after battling in practice, we all finally got to play as one and come together.
Wrapping the trip up in Como was a great ending to the trip. Our last day was a free day so we woke up early and went sailing on Lake Como. We saw George Clooney's two houses off the water, Versace's home, and many more homes off the water. Those people there are living the good life for sure!
After the boat ride myself and a few teammates took a trolley up into the mountains to get a view over the whole city of Como and Lake Como. It was definitely one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
Now that the trip is wrapping up we are all just relaxing and enjoying each other's company. We will always have great memories from this trip to Italy.
-- Mike Morrison
It was a tough game at Paffoni Omegna, with the game called due to floor conditions with 10 minutes left and the Patriots down by two. Coach L and director of operations Scott Lombardi report from Lake Como:
We left Lake Como around 3pm today to make the one and a half hour ride to Omegna for game #4. This was the only game we played on our trip that charged admission to their fans. We had to play the game in an old arena because European teams are in the process of repainting their floor with the NBA 3-second lane, a change from the typical and traditional trapezoid lane. Their main arena was being painted and the old one had no air conditioning. This would become a major factor during the game.
I adjusted the lineups again to look at different combinations. I played Mike and Cam with three of our freshmen. We played a more veteran group and they did a great job in the second quarter. It was quite a game. We trailed throughout the first quarter and were behind by seven after 12 minutes. We played very well in the second period and were tied at the half, 46-46.
The temperature in the gym had to be over a hundred. Any player who stood for just a moment left a puddle of sweat on the floor. With two minutes gone in the fourth quarter, Luke Hancock slipped on the wet floor. Luke did a split a minute later trying to use a ball screen. In the interest of safety for both teams we agreed to stop the action with the score 68-66.
I don't consider this a loss but it was not a win either. We needed those last 10 minutes to prove who was the better team.
In each of our four games we played all 12 players as much as possible. We wanted all of them to leave Italy knowing that each of them had the opportunity to see a magnificent country with beauty so hard to describe, it must be seen to be appreciated.
We played two tough teams and two not-so-tough. We ate great, traveled on a modern bus, and stayed in three different style hotels. Each of the guys showed what they can do on the basketball court. We have a boat tour tomorrow around Lake Como. The team will enjoy a players-only dinner on the last night and then it is home on Saturday. I am looking forward to another exciting season of George Mason basketball already and it isn't even September yet.
After our game in Forli on Wednesday night, we made our way to our hotel in Lake Como around 1:30am because construction on the highway shut down all but one lane. The hotel we are staying at is called the Hotel Regina Olga. It is a beautiful hotel built in traditional Italian style with colorful gardens surrounding the patios. Some of our guys have a view of the lake and Italian Alps in the background out of their hotel windows. Lake Como is also the home away from home for actor George Clooney. Also, it is pretty neat that we are only two miles away from the Switzerland border.
Most of the guys slept in this morning because of the long bus ride we had last night. We all met downstairs in the lobby at 2pm before we headed out to our pregame meal. We ate at Tom & Jerry's Ristorante. It seems it is almost impossible to get a bad meal in Italy. The food has been top notch everywhere we've eaten so far.
We had about an hour and a half bus ride to Omegna for our final game. It was a scenic ride up into the mountains. Omegna is located around the second largest lake in Italy called Lake Maggiore. This lake was formed by the melting of the glaciers in the Alps. We arrived at the Palazetto dello Sport in Omegna around 4:35pm for our 6pm tip off. The arena was a small dome which seated about 2000 people. We had close to 1000 people at the game, which made for a great atmosphere. About a handful of the fans were shirtless and chanting and singing all game long. They even had a bullhorn and would sound it off when our guys were shooting free throws.
Today marked the first of a ten day festival in Omegna during which the team we played, Paffoni Omegna, was presented to the city. They were very physical and executed well. It was a tight game from the tip until the end of the game. The game ended in the fourth quarter with nine minutes remaining because play had stopped several times in each quarter to mop up the wet spots on the floor after a player would fall. Players were slipping every trip down the floor in the fourth quarter. Both Coach L and Paffoni's coach agreed that in the interest of preventing any injuries we would stop the game. The game ended with Paffoni having a two point lead, 68-66 with nine minutes remaining. Another reason that played a factor for ending the game early was the city of Omegna would be shutting down all of the streets for the start of the festival at 9pm. So immediately after our game, the guys showered and got on the bus to a police escort out of the city. We are on the bus now heading back to downtown Como for dinner. Tomorrow will be our last day and night in this beautiful city.
-- Coach Lombardi
After a close 83-78 win in a battle with Forli, Coach L and assistant coach Michael Huger share some post-game thoughts:
Our trip to Forli was perfect. Great weather, followed by a great pregame meal then a brief team meeting before getting to the arena for a match up with a very tough opponent.
The opposing coach knew my son Jay when Jay played in this league a few years ago. He also was very familiar with our run to the Final Four and wanted to talk all about it before the game. I wanted to talk to my team but it is hard to be brief when the topic is George Mason basketball.
The game was physical and we got in early foul trouble. It was close and we trailed by two at the end of the first quarter. Our second unit played well and by halftime we were ahead by four.
It stayed close till the end but we won by five - A tough game and a good test. Good information for preparation for the upcoming season. Now we hit the road again.
We stopped for some snacks on the highway and the lines in front of the cashier were so long it was incredible. We now have a three-hour bus ride to one of the most beautiful places on earth - our last stop, Lake Como.
-- Coach L
Today wake up calls were at 9am. Breakfast at 9:30 and checkout was at 10. We had two hours to walk around Florence before we headed to Forli for our game there. The guys bought everything in sight -- I picked up a few ties for myself.
At noon we departed for Forli. On the bus ride up we watched the classic movie with Russell Crowe, Gladiator. We arrived in Flori around 2:30 for our pregame meal at the Best Western. We ate the usual -- salad, pasta with meat or marinara sauce, and chicken breast. After the meal we sat in the lounge area to tell jokes and watch Youtube highlights on the Internet.
At 5 we departed for the arena in Forli. It was a five-minute ride from the hotel. Once I see the gym, I got a flashback from my playing days in Belgium. The smell of the gym, the baskets, the seats, the floor and the basketballs. Coach Konkol and I decided to challenge Sherrod Wright to a game of 7 and you know who won that game.
The game started at 6:30. I think 500 people showed up for the contest which is a lot for a friendly match. Forli is a big physical team. All their players can shoot, penetrate and dish. They have a smaller point guard who can get into the lane at will -- he did a good job of running his team. Our players did a good job as well. Mike Morrison led us in scoring with 15 and we won the game 83-78.
As I write this we are stuck in traffic on the way to Lake Como. Tomorrow we play Paffoni Omenga at 6. See you when we get back to campus.
-- Coach Huger
Coach L and Coach Konkol blog from Florence to begin the second half of the Italy Trip:
On a trip like this it is always the things that are unplanned that make it special. Last night after the game our host team, Livorno, invited us to an after game dinner party at the local tennis club. Despite the fact that many of our guys did not bring a change of clothes and wanted to head back to our hotel - we felt it would have been rude to say no. So we went with the idea of excusing ourselves as soon as possible.
About 80 people, were there on the roof top of the club with tables and chairs for everyone. Before too long, music was playing and the two dozen girls who were also invited were dancing. A 35-year old guy from Livorno started dancing as well and soon enough the roof top was like a scene from "Dancing with the Stars." Vertrail Vaughans was urged, cajoled, and finally volunteered to represent. The whole team was up dancing and cheering on "V" who put on a dance performance that had everyone standing, laughing, cheering and applauding. A real night to remember. Oh yeah, the food was good, too.
-- Coach L
We are at our midway point of the trip and after arriving back to the hotel at 3 am after our game last night, today was a good day for unscheduled activity.
The guys took advantage of the extra time to slept in and spent the rest of the day exploring Florence. We are staying at the Grand Hotel Baglioni which is in the center of the city and walking distance to seemingly hundreds of shops, restaurants, and, of course, gelato. Many miles have been walked today and there has been a lot of shopping.
Tomorrow we travel to Forli and play at 6 pm. They have a good team and play a very physical style of basketball. We are excited about the opportunity.
-- Coach Konkol
After waking up in Florence, the team traveled to Pisa prior to a game in Livorno. Both head coach Jim Larranaga and assistant coach Chris Caputo shared their thoughts after a busy Monday:
We arrived in Florence yesterday and saw the most famous sculpture in the world - Michelangelo's "David." The statue is 14 feet tall and depicts young David just before he faced Goliath. The detail is amazing.
The hotel we are staying in is one of the oldest in Europe. They updated the bathrooms and it is really nice. [Team doctor] Dr. Frank Pettrone flew in with his wife yesterday and took our athletic director Tom O'Connor and his wife Barbara, our athletic trainer Debi Corbatto, my wife Liz and I to dinner. Great fun.
We bussed to Pisa and saw the leaning tower today. Very interesting. Players laughed a lot. Many tourists wanting to have their picture taken with our guys.
Game #2 was a blow out. We were ahead by 49 at the half. The next game will be our toughest.Free time tomorrow. Everyone is planning to shop.
-- Coach L
We started the day with a later wake up call (9:00) for the first time on the trip. We had a great breakfast with an even better view of Florence from the fifth floor of our hotel.
After breakfast the guys did some shopping in Florence along with some gelato sampling. Florence is known for the jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") and its leather goods.
At 3:00 pm we got on the bus for our 1.5-hour trip to Pisa for our pregame meal and a look at the Leaning Tower! And to quote Jay Larranaga, a veteran of the Italian pro leagues: "It leans." For me it was somewhat surreal because I have seen it so much throughout the years in pictures and on TV.
We played at 8:00 pm in a town called Livorno vs. GMV Ghezzano. Although we won 108-38 the people in Livorno could not have been nicer. After the game and gift exchange they invited us to a social club for pasta and steak. Our whole travel party went to the dinner along with their players, cheerleaders, and some fans of their team. Our guys really had a great time socializing with everyone and sat with the cheerleaders for dinner. Vertrail competed in a dance off with one of the fans that had the whole place going wild! The people of Livorno could not have been more hospitable.
Tonight we head back to Florence for our full day there tomorrow.
-- Coach Caputo
Senior Isaiah Tate checks in from Florence...
Our last night in Rome was filled with enjoyment. The team and I enjoyed a five course meal at an outdoor restaurant in downtown Rome, followed by a night of fun walking around Rome. We managed to put on a show for foreign and domestic bystanders.
Today was our first day in Florence. We went to the museum and saw what is said to be the most famous piece of art work ever in the Statue of David, by Michelangelo. We also got to tour around the city and saw the Paradise doors and the biggest dome in the world at the Santa Maria Cathedral.
There is plenty of artwork and life in Florence, while it differs from that of Rome, it is once in a lifetime place to experience.
Coach L shares his thoughts on Friday's game and the trip...
Well GPS in Italy works like it does in the USA. Our bus driver followed his gps directions right down a one way, dead end street on our way to Game #1. The driver finally found the right road after being lost for 15 minutes. Our players did not have the same problem once we arrived at the correct address. We scored 98 points and won by 30.
We divided the team into two six-man teams. Sherrod Wright did not play due to a shoulder injury. The first unit consisted of upperclassmen - Cam, Ike, Mike, Ryan, DJ and Luke. They built up a 15 point lead in the first quarter. The second unit, Vertrail, Rashad, Bryon, Paris, J2 and Jon battled even. The first unit really looked good in the third period and bolted to a 30 point advantage. The second unit had more difficulty adjusting to the Italian interpretations of traveling. I'm not sure if it is a record but the refs called us for 20 walking violations. I was very pleased with everyone's effort.We went to the Coliseum today. I kept thinking about 2 movies - Gladiator and Jumper. Rome is just amazing. The history provided by our personal tour guide, Flavia, made it a special day.
Today was our day at the Colosseum and Roman Forum. The weather was very hot, but the players really enjoyed seeing the place of so many events nearly 2000 years ago. Of course, the main conversation from our guide was about the battles and how accurate the movie Gladiator was in portraying those times. The talk of Russell Crowe and criminals being thrown to the lions inspired Coach L and several players to get pictures taken with some gladiators outside the Colosseum.
The guys have become very savvy in their negotiation skills with the street vendors. Today's purchases included linens, hats, sunglasses, paperweights, sun umbrella, more rosary beads, and other Colosseum souvenirs. Cam Long was on a hat buying spree and almost convinced Coach L to jump in with him on the same black fedora.
The players have really been great ambassadors of George Mason University as well. I can not count how many people from all over the world have come up to them to talk and take pictures with them. They are really having a good time here and we are looking forward to one more night in Rome and then on to Florence tomorrow morning.
-- Coach Konkol
We began the day with a trip to Vatican City and it was definitely a sight to see with the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. The players took in all the history and my guess is our 13 players are averaging about 40 pictures taken per player! In one of the hallways there were tapestries made in the 16th century that have an illusion when you walk from one side to the other. The eyes on the man and his knee literally appear to move. The players were wild about that one and were very impressed with all of Michaelangelo's work throughout the Vatican. The paintings in the Sistine Chapel are truly remarkable.
After the tour we hit the streets for lunch and the guys continued their attack on the street shops. Today's purchases included rosary beads, holy water, Vatican history books, bracelets, and a bag. Freshman Jonathan Arledge definitely spent the most time negotiating his purchases and may have a future in business.
We had a little time at the hotel to rest and then had our pregame meal at La Bruchetta. The food was great and our host was a huge college basketball fan. He watched our run to the Final Four in 2006 and gave us plenty of advice! He also thought that Ryan Pearson looked very much like Tim Duncan. All the guys thought that was really funny.
At 5:30 pm, we traveled to the site of our game against Lombardia. We jumped out to an early lead and led 55-40 at the half and the final was 98-65. Andre Cornelius led the way with 17 points, Ryan Pearson had 14 points, and Cam Long was also in double figures with 12. After the game Andre Cornelius said, "I thought we played well as a team. We shared the ball and got good looks. We need to adjust to how the game is officiated here with the traveling calls, but it was really fun to be out there with my teammates again."
We're looking forward to our last day in Rome tomorrow with a tour of the Colosseum and definitely a lot more eating.
-- Coach Konkol
After a quick connection in Paris, we landed in Rome just before noon today. We met our representatives from Basketball Travelers, jumped on the bus, and had a wonderful lunch at the Sheraton Golf Hotel. Afterward, we had a bus tour and saw many of the famous spots of Rome. The players were very excited to see the Vatican and Colosseum and were climbing over each other to get the best camera angle. We will be touring the Vatican tomorrow before we play and the Colosseum on Saturday.
The players were unanimous in their amazement of how old the buildings are here compared to home.
After some quick rest at the hotel, we traveled on foot and saw the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Food was the next objective and Mike Morrison, Vertrail Vaughns, and Rashad Whack wanted to make sure they compared an italian McDonalds to their favorite US spot. They raved about the apple pie! The others found their way to a pizzeria and really enjoyed it.
We made our way to the hotel and hit a gelato shop. The owner had us take a picture of him with the players and wished us well. Day 1 was a lot of fun and we are excited about game day tomorrow!
-- Coach Konkol
Well August 18, 2010 is here and we are off to Rome this evening. Our team has been practicing for the last ten days in preparation for our foreign tour. The NCAA allows you to make a trip like this once every four years. Since none of our players have ever been to Europe, it should be something very special.
We will be playing four games in four different cities. We will play our first game in Rome on August 20th . We will then bus to Florence for game #2. After a stop in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, we will head to Lake Como. I have never been there but I hear it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We will play two games in that area of the country before flying out of Milan on August 28th to head home.
This trip has already provided us a good look at this year's upcoming team. Each member of the team has worked extremely hard this summer to be in great shape not only for Italy but for the season. We are very excited about the progress we see in practice and think it will pay dividends in the CAA race.
This will be an educational experience unlike any other for our team. Seeing a new culture, eating new foods, hearing a new language, sight seeing in one of the oldest cities in Europe will be a once in a life time opportunity. The players are excited and so are the coaches. Time for take off!
-- Coach L