The Razorbacks will fly out Friday to start a 10-day excursion to Italy that will include four exhibition games and plenty of sightseeing.
"Our guys have worked hard and this is going to be a reward," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said Thursday. "I want it to be fun. You always play to win but I want our guys to enjoy this experience because it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"Can you imagine you are a freshman coming in and your first trip is to Italy? That would be pretty cool for anybody," Anderson added. "I want those guys to really grasp and take this experience and learn some things as we travel abroad. They have worked extremely hard."
The team will see such sites as the Italian Alps, Lake Como, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistene Chapel and much more.
"I might even make them write a paper about it Anderson said. "I'm going to make it educational as well, and I think it's going to be educational for me as well."
The Razorbacks will open the exhibition tour Sunday at 1 p.m. (CST) when they play Amici del Campetto in Lake Como.
They will then head on to Florence to battle Lithuania's Atletas Kaunas Monday and Mentenegro Selezione on Tuesday with both games starting at 12:30 p.m. CST.
The final game of the tour will be Friday in Rome when Arkansas takes on All Star Italy also at 12:30 CST.
"You talk about Italy and Spain there is good basketball in those places," Anderson said. "Some of the professional teams are going to be well versed in how they play. They play with a different ball and the widening of the lanes. They play up-tempo with a 24-second and we play with a 35-second clock.
"That is going to be different for our guys," Anderson added. "I think the competition will have some professional teams and some all-stars of college players over there."
Anderson took his Missouri team on a Canadian tour a few years ago.
"We did this at Missouri and went to Ontario, Canada over Labor Day and I could see the basketball knowledge that these guys knew," Anderson said. "The bonding and the practices those guys got to spend a lot of time together and it was critical for that season which was one of our better seasons over there."
Arkansas redshirt junior forward Marshawn Powell, who was lost to a season-ending knew injury two games into the 2011-2012 campaign, is scheduled to play on the tour after being able to go through the workouts the team has had on campus.
"He has been involved in all the workouts," Anderson said. "So far, so good. He will play but how much remains to be seen."
Part of that will have to do with Powell's conditioning, which is understandably not where it needs to be. In fact, Anderson put it at a 5 on a scale of 1-10.
"From the first day he has shown fatigue," Anderson said. From the first day he has probably lasted about three minutes and that's not at all uncommon. It's a steady process. He is not where he is going to be. But I think the beauty of it is he is out there, That does a lot for the psyche, a lot from the mental standpoint. "
Anderson has been happy with what he has seen in the workouts – of which the Razorbacks were allotted 10 – leading up to the tour.
"There are more options and more depth with our basketball team," Anderson said. "What we have worked on is basically more offensively structured, fast break and just trying to get into some things. I want to see what kind of basketball I.Q. these guys have. Defense has been talked about but I haven't had the chance really to work on it."
It has been especially beneficial for the newcomers – junior college transfer Coty Clarke (6-7, 25) and freshmen Jacorey Williams (6-8, 205), Michael Qualls (6-6, 215), Anthlon Bell (6-3, 180) and Dee Wagner (5-10, 180).
"Coty Clarke intrigues me," Anderson said. "He was one of the last guys we signed, one of the leading rebounders in junior college and does some things that make you scratch your head. He's one of those guys consistently getting double figures in rebounds every practice. He's always around the basketball. His skill level is pretty good. So I am anxious to see him take that from the practice to the game.
"Michael Qualls we knew is a tremendous athlete but this practice time has been really beneficial to him," Anderson said. "Just to see the speed of the game and where he can impact. He does a lot of little things. The thing I like about all these young guys, Qualls, JaCorey, Anthlon, Dee Wagner, to me they do a lot of different little things that help you win.
"You have got to have some guys that do some of the dirty work," Anderson said. "I think we are going to be a more athletic team. JaCorey is long, lanky and active. These kids have a motor. They will leave it on the floor and compete. That makes practice a lot better."
It is practice that has Anderson thinking his team is going to be better as sophomore star B.J. Young is no longer dominating the workouts.
He notes that the youngsters are doing all the things he could ask for at this point.
"Loose balls, charges, hustle back on defense, rebounding the basketball out of their area," Anderson said. "They don't back down. There were practices last year where people just dominated. BJ just dominated. That doesn't happen this year."
The only two members of the team who will not make the Italy trip are the team's two transfers – former Oklahoma State player Fred Gulley of Oklahoma State former Houston player Alandise Harris.
Gulley will be eligible in December while Harris is still waiting on an NCAA decision on a waiver he filed to be immediately eligible this season.
"With the NCAA it could be tomorrow or another week or month but it is something we are really staying on top of," Anderson said.