Bulldogs depart for Italian tour
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Bulldogs depart for Italian tour

Georgia Bulldogs
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia men’s basketball team departed Athens on Thursday for an international tour of Italy through July 29.

The Bulldogs will land in Rome on Friday and will play games there on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. During the first five days, the itinerary also features tours of the Vatican and ancient Rome including the Colosseum, as well as a trip to Florence. Georgia will spend its last two days in Sorrento and also visit Amalfi and Positano.

“I’m fired up,” head coach Mike White said. “I could eat pizza every night. I’m going to do that in Italy. I’m excited about seeing the coast. I’m excited about seeing Rome and the Vatican and taking the tours. I’m excited about our guys getting to experience and learn about all that stuff as well.”

The international trip allowed the Bulldogs, whose roster features 10 newcomers, the opportunity for extra practice time this summer.

“We’ve tried to take full advantage,” White said. “We’ve tried to mix in some light workouts, some offensive and defensive installs, some workouts where it’s more talking and less strenuous. We feel like we’ve got to be careful with the level of physicality in June and July.

“We’ll go to Italy and compete against some other teams and get a chance to evaluate where we are,” White said. “…but we’ve gotten a lot done. The intensity level and the competitiveness level in the practice gym has been impressive to this point.”

The journey will serve as a homecoming of sorts for graduate senior Russel Tchewa, who lived in Italy while in high school before coming to the States.

“I am going home,” Tchewa exclaimed. “Italy is my home. I call it home because I spent five years there. I have a lot of memories there. I went to see the Pope there. I went to mass and there were about 10,000 people there. It was a crowd. Everyone was yelling for the Pope. It was amazing.”

Other Bulldogs will be making their first trip to Europe.

“I’m excited,” senior Jabri Abdur-Rahim said. “I know a lot of us, including me, have never been to Europe. I was really excited to get to travel the world. Basketball can take you to a lot of places. We’re all very grateful and looking forward to traveling to other countries.”

White believes the outcomes of Georgia’s three games on the tour are secondary.

“Honestly, I don’t care if we win or lose,” White said. “I want to play well, and I want to play better. I want to play different combinations. We have three opportunities over there. We’ll play each guy. We are considering playing each guy in just a couple of games so we can really evaluate everybody. Again, it’s not about winning and losing over there. Hopefully, we’ll play really good teams that we can learn from so we can have some success but also have some struggle so that we can learn both ways.”

White has identified several aspects of what he hopes the team accomplishes in Italy.

“Connection, optimism about what we could become, pride about what we’ve learned and familiarity with the install – offensively, defensively and with our identity,” White said. “When we get back and get back to work – and that’s liquid because I don’t know how much time they’ll need away from it – but just that level of familiarity and where we’re at and how we get to where we want to be.”

Georgia will return to Athens on July 29, less than three weeks before the beginning of the fall semester on Aug. 16 and exactly 100 days before the Bulldogs’ season opener against Oregon on Nov. 6.

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