The Penn State basketball team sets off for a weeklong tour of Europe Saturday. It will include visits to Belgium, France, Holland and Great Britain.
Considering the final stop on the tour, it is fitting that the Nittany Lions' 10 practices leading up to it were well bloody intense. On Aug. 1, team captains Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill collided during a drill.
I think my team was losing, Frazier said. I tried to go for a steal. I guess I was leading with my head.
Added coach Pat Chambers, D.J. was trying to come off a ball screen. Tim jumped the ball screen, and they just butted heads.
The unscheduled meeting of the minds led to a trip to the emergency room, where Frazier received 12 stitches above his right eye and Newbill received 16 stitches above his left eye.
We battled, Frazier said, joking that he won because he had fewer stitches. But we're friends about it. It was great. Coach Chambers loved it. He wanted to take a picture and send (it) out on Facebook.
Chambers actually posted a photo of his bruised stars on Twitter (see it below). And when talking to the media Friday, he referred back to the collision as an example of why the Euro-trip -- and the extra off-season practices that come with it -- are so important to his program. The Nittany Lions are coming off a disappointing 10-21 campaign.
This team, they compete, they get after each other, Chambers said. It's like October. Guys are fighting for minutes right now, which is really cool to see.
I know these guys are tired of beating each other up, he added. It's gonna be great to play someone else. And not just anyone else. We're going against grown men, we're playing against pros. It's gonna be fun.
The opening two games of the tour will be played in Belgium. The first (Monday) is against Belgian First Division foe Okapi Aalstar, while the second (Tuesday) is against Belgian Second Division member St. Jan. Wednesday includes a visit to Paris. Thursday, the Lions head to Holland for a game with Holland Second Division team Binneland. Then comes a visit to London before heading home.
For Chambers, the trip is about much more than improving on the court. I really think the locker room is where it starts, he said. When you're going to be together for a solid week, every minute of every day, you hope that they come together as teammates and brothers.
The other key is getting Frazier back up to full effectiveness. The former first-team All-Big Ten guard missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. According to Chambers, Frazier has met all of the physical benchmarks he set prior to the injury. But he rated the guard's mental rehab at 85 percent.
The guy looks like he's already back to me, Chambers said. Now, his timing is going to be a problem -- slowing himself down -- because he's been out for nine months and gets out there and wants to go crazy. We just have to slow him down.
Chambers hopes the entire team can slow things down a bit on the tour, too, but in a different way. While basketball will be the primary focus on the trip, it won't be the only focus.
We're gonna see some culture, some amazing areas, Chambers said. These guys, if they don't make the NBA, they can say, I've been to Belgium, I've been to London, I've been to Paris.
And we can only assume they'll have a bloody good time doing so.
Newbill sat out Friday's practice (or at least the part the media was allowed to watch) with what appeared to be a right shoulder issue. He was in practice gear, but had a portable stim machine hooked up to the shoulder while sitting on the sideline.
Frazier, on his new wound: I'm pretty upset because I have this scar on my head. That's a scar that I didn't need. I have a big one on my ankle that I'm proud of. Now I have one on my face. He was smiling when he said that.
The Lions board a bus for Philadelphia at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. From Philly, they fly to Belgium, arriving at 7:30 a.m. local time Sunday. They'll rest and have some gym time later in the day Sunday. There will also be an official recognition of their arrival Sunday.
Chambers is optimistic about his third season at the helm of Penn State: I feel in year three, we're about to flip it a little bit. This thing is headed in a much better direction.
Forward Brandon Taylor, on what he's anxious to experience (non-basketball) in Europe: One of the coaches may not like it, but I heard Belgian chocolate is really good. My man Cap, he'll see this later. David Cap Caporaletti is an administrative assistant to Chambers.