By Will Vandervort
It really did not kick in for Clemson guard Jordan Roper until he started loading the buses this morning.
“We are going to Italy,” the Clemson guard said.
That’s right, the Clemson men’s basketball team is currently in the air on a nine-hour trip to Italy where it will play four games over the next 10 days, while also learning a little about the country’s history, heritage and culture.
“We are mainly going to experience Italy and going different places as a team,” Roper said. “Different experiences like that can help you grow as a team, not always with basketball. I mean every year is different. We are a different team this year and we have to continue to grow.
“This situation and experience for us will help us grow.”
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, which ends on Aug. 18. The trip began Thursday with a flight from Atlanta, which will land in Rome on Friday morning. It is a nine-hour flight.
It will be quite the experience for a guy like Roper, who did not do much traveling while growing up in Columbia, S.C. The furthest Roper has traveled before Thursday was to Boston when the Tigers played Boston College there last winter.
“I have never been in a different time zone,” he laughed. “So this is the first time I have been out of the country.”
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.
Roper says he is looking forward to seeing the Roman Coliseum and other landmarks, and though he isn’t big on pasta, he is excited to experience the different things that he can’t get in Clemson or Columbia.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m not real big on pasta, but I’m looking forward to it and to see how different it is.”
Outside of guard Damarcus Harrison, none of the players have been to Europe overseas. Clemson head coach Brad Brownell feels as his players experience this together, it will help bring them closer together.
“It allows us to develop are intensity as a team,” he said. “Each team takes on its own personality and this year’s team will begin to develop a personality on this trip. You will see guys become leaders. It will allow us to spend more time with our guys in a laid back setting.
“It will be a great bonding time for us.”
Like the majority of his players, Brownell has never been overseas. His many experiences as a former student-athlete and as a long-time coach prove what kind of opportunity this can be for his young basketball team, which has no seniors and seven freshmen and sophomores.
“We certainly want to win, but we will be getting better because of the trip itself, and also because of these 10 practices,” he said. “I think it will be a really good trip for us and will be a lot of fun.
“I have never been overseas. I have never had an opportunity to go. I told the guys this is a heck of an experience. They are 18 and 19 years old, it took me to 44 before I could make my first trip overseas. It does not happen often so I want them to appreciate it, and I think they will. I know we don’t have too many guys that have been abroad so we are really looking forward to the bonding issue of it and spending the time together.”