By Will Vandervort
K.J. McDaniels is looking forward to a lot of things out of the Clemson basketball team’s trip to Italy next week.
First of all, he is excited about the different foods he can explore. Italy is known for its exquisite Italian dishes, breads and pastries. He is also excited to see some of the culture and the different monuments such as the Roman Coliseum in Rome.
“The fact that it is really here is exciting,” Clemson’s junior forward said Wednesday. “I can’t wait for it.”
The Tigers will stay in four different cities and play four games against various clubs and all-star teams from Italy during the 10-day trip from Aug. 8-18. The trip begins with a flight from Atlanta on Aug. 8 and will land in Rome, Italy on the morning of Friday, Aug. 9.
Clemson will play games on Aug. 10, 12, 14 and 17. The Tigers will also visit Florence, Venice and Lake Como over the course of the tour, playing games at each stop.
“Each team takes on its own personality and I believe this year’s team will begin to develop a personality on this trip,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “You will see guys become leaders. I think it will be interesting to spend time with our guys in a little bit more of a laid back setting.
“Certainly, the historical aspect of it and what we can learn from that will be great, but it will be just a great bonding time for us.”
Sightseeing will also be done in groups and individually over the duration of the trip as Brownell tries to allow his team to learn and experience as much of Italy as they can.
“It should be a lot of fun,” guard Jordan Roper said. “It will be cool to see the different cultures and see how their heritage is different from ours and just compare and contrast it. But, mainly it is about hanging out with your friends and teammates and building that camaraderie.”
That camaraderie was something Brownell said was missing at times last season. He said it was in large part contributed to the squad’s age difference between Milton Jennings and Devin Booker, who at times did not fit in with the 11 sophomores and freshmen, especially off the court.
“I wouldn’t say it was like two different teams because it was not that drastic, but it was hard for those guys to hang out off the court,” he said. “It was difficult for guys to be as tight. You had some guys that had friendships with the older guys that were here and maybe the new guys were so young.
“It was a tough year for those guys.”
Because everyone is closer in age, Brownell and a few of his players agree that this feels like a new generation for Clemson basketball.
“It just feels different,” McDaniels said. “I believe it will help us a lot with unity as we become one. This trip should be a fun experience and a good bonding experience, too.
“Going over to a foreign country, we will have no one but each other so it will force us to depend on no one but each other. We should connect well, and we have been doing a lot more stuff here that will help us connect more, too. That should help a lot.”