It is still just mid-August, but the Badgers are gearing up for a 10-day trip to Italy. They will play five exhibition games while spending three nights each in Rome, Florence and Cernobbio.
Head coach Bo Ryan and his team are taking advantage of being able to work together early, though without the incoming class of freshmen. The Badgers are looking forward to being able to build chemistry and get a head start on the court.
"I've [always been] the type to, with non-conference, never worry about names on the jerseys or what the other team is doing," Ryan said after a Monday practice session. "All we're trying to do right now is concentrate on what we're doing."
"It's great to be back on the court," senior forward Alando Tucker said. "We were able to play amongst each other during the summer, but it's great to have the coaches back out there."
Wisconsin will play its first game against the Italian Under-21 National Team Aug. 19. It will later take on MPV Virtus Siena, Pool Firenze, Mylena Treviglio and Castelletto Ticino.
While the team has little in terms of scouting reports on those teams, UW has been helped in workouts by former Badgers and current European players Mike Wilkinson and Zach Morley.
Ryan figures that the trip will teach his players a lot in terms of patience.
"Some of these guys have never really toured and in order to be a good tourist you have to learn patience," Ryan said, citing the wait to see the Sistine Chapel as an example. "They'll get that and they'll also learn a little about long plane rides."
The Badgers will also get a bit of a history lesson, as their itinerary includes trips to the Vatican Museum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Coliseum, among others.
As much as the team is looking forward to playing organized basketball together, the players are just as excited to travel overseas, an opportunity they are not taking for granted.
"I'm very excited—to get a chance to go to a place like Italy, for free, not a lot of people get to do that," senior guard Kammron Taylor said. "Our team has been blessed to get a chance to go over there, and not only play, but get to see some world famous sites."
"I've always been one to travel and this is the first time I'm actually going to be out of the country," Alando Tucker said. "I'm excited. I like to see the world."
Taylor cleared to play after recovering from injury
After injuring his hand in a freak accident over the summer, Taylor, UW's point guard, was cleared to play three weeks ago and has taken part in practices with the team.
"Everything's going real well, I'm just getting used to getting back … and playing with the team," Taylor said. "The way it happened … I was like ‘You've got to be kidding me.'"
Taylor said he was playing in a pick-up game in Minneapolis when his hand "got caught in a jersey and snapped back."
Landry, Stiemsma back and ready
After missing the second semester of the 2005-06 season due to academic issues, sophomore forward Marcus Landry and junior center Greg Stiemsma have been cleared to re-join the team and will make the trip to Italy.
"It's going to be a good trip for me," Landry said. "I get to get back on the court and play with my teammates again and I can show everybody how much better we got as a team and how much better I have got."
Though sitting out half a season is not something that Landry enjoyed, he did say that he had learned valuable lessons while having to watch his teammates endure an up-and-down second half of the season.
"I think, for me, it was a good learning experience," Landry said. "Things are not always right there in front of you, sometimes you have to work to go get things."
Playing by international rules
The Badgers have been practicing with international rules in place, including the trapezoidal lane and the longer three-point line. However, because UW runs the swing offense, the most important difference will most likely be the 24-second shot clock.
While the rules will be different, Ryan says he is not asking his players to try and change their habits too much.
"If there was a gold medal on this … and we're playing internationally, maybe something like that [be different]," Ryan said. "I still want our guys to play basketball … like we're going to when we come back in September for our workouts."
Wisconsin's Full Itinerary
Aug. 17 – Bus from Kohl Center to O'Hare Airport and departure from Chicago
Aug. 18 – Arrive in Rome, Welcome Dinner at Il Pomodorino
Aug. 19 – Sightseeing at Vatican Museum and Game #1 vs. Italian Under-21 National Team
Aug. 20 – Tour of Imperial Rome
Aug. 21 – Bus from Rome to Florence and Welcome dinner at Antico Ristorante La Certosa
Aug. 22 – Tour of Academy of Fine Arts (Statue of David) and Game #2 vs. MPV Virtus Siena
Aug. 23 – Tour of Pisa and Game #3 vs. Pool Firenze
Aug. 24 – Bus from Florence to Treviglio, Game #4 vs. Mylena Treviglio and Bus from Treviglio to Cernobbio
Aug. 25 – Game #5 vs. Castelletto Ticino
Aug. 26 – Boat charter to Bellagio and Farewell Banquet at Hotel Regina Olga
Aug. 27 – Depart Milan to Chicago and Bus from O'Hare to Kohl Center.