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Italy Trip a Chance for Pitt Basketball to Find Themselves



PITTSBURGH — The Pitt men’s basketball team is going international, but head coach Jeff Capel views the team’s 10-day foreign tour as much more than just an opportunity for pasta and pizza.

With so many new faces and only four players returning that saw significant action last season, Capel sees the trip as a way for the team to get a feel for its identity.

“We are still trying to figure it all out,” Capel said. “We are still trying to figure out roles right now, who are we right now and what groups fit together right now. What each other’s strengths are, how do we minimize weakness, how do we build our communication.”

In addition to visiting some of the most famous landmarks across Italy, the team will play three exhibition games against professional teams from around Europe. Pitt will first square off against the Netherlands National B Team on Aug. 8. In their second game, the team will face the Florence All-Stars on Aug. 10. The Panthers will close out their overseas competition on Aug. 12 with a matchup against the Vicenza All-Stars.

Sophomore point guard Xavier Johnson is eager to see how the team matches up against professional talent.

“Very excited,” he said. “It will be talent, but I do not know how good it is over there. But it is a good experience.”

Junior center Terrell Brown believes it will be good for the team to be able to match up against someone other than themselves.

“I feel like it is good because they are more physical overseas,” Brown said. “So I feel like that will be a big help for us, especially for the new guys not knowing anything about the ACC. They are getting that experience, so come ACC play they are not kind of shocked.”

With the loss of Jared Wilson-Frame and the uncertainty surrounding Kene Chukwuka’s health, the tour will provide Capel and his staff with a chance to see which of the newcomers will be able to take on the crucial roles that have been vacated since last season.

“For us it gives us a chance to see, you know, for our new guys, how long can they play before they get tired?” Capel said. “What are the rotations like? A guy coming off the bench, a guy starting. How does he react to those different things?”

For Capel and his staff, this will be their chance to get a feel for their new group well before the season starts on Nov. 6 against Florida State.

The Panthers will depart on Aug. 5 and return Aug. 14. The trip will include stops in Rome, Florence, Bologna, Vicenza, and Venice.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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