For many Georgetown students, studying abroad is one of the most memorable experiences during their four years of college. Whether it’s a summer in Madrid or a semester in Buenos Aires, the chance to travel overseas offers a host of opportunities to grow, both in and — perhaps more often — out of the classroom.
For members of the Georgetown basketball team, however, studying abroad is impossible. With practices that start in October and a season that extends well into March, the college basketball calendar ensures that the only chance student-athletes have to spend more than a few days abroad is on tours. The NCAA permits each school to take one tour every four seasons.
So, four years after infamously brawling with the Bayi Rockets during a trip to China, the Hoyas packed their bags this summer for a 10-day tour of Italy from Aug. 14 to Aug. 24.
From a basketball standpoint, the trip offered Georgetown an opportunity to see how a highly regarded freshman class would fit with a talented returning core from a team that lost a hard-fought game in the Round of 32 during this past season’s NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely have some systems, offensively and defensively, we want to take a look. It’s probably mostly about seeing combinations,” Head Coach John Thompson III told CSN Washington a few days before the start of the trip. “It’s not just ‘Let’s go roll the ball out and go see the Coliseum.’ It’s also not midseason getting ready for the Big East. There are obviously some things you want to look at.”
The Hoyas played four games during their stay in Europe. The first, against Haukar Basket, a professional team from Iceland, was dominated by freshman forward Marcus Derrickson. The Virginia native arrived on the Hilltop as the 89th-ranked player in his high school class according to ESPN and exploded for a game-high 20 points in his first contest for the Blue and Gray. That effort, along with a late 17-0 run, helped propel Georgetown to a 74-64 victory.
“Marcus during that stretch was very good,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be easy and look at — I don’t know how many he had — four or five threes, but more important than that, he took two charges during that stretch and he came up with several key rebounds, offensively and defensively.”
In its second game, Georgetown coasted to a 95-36 win over the Italy All-Stars, a team comprised of professional players from the country’s first, second and third divisions. Once again, the Hoyas were led in scoring by Derrickson, who tallied 18 points. The remaining two games, however, would not be as easy. After traveling from Rome to Florence, the Hoyas suffered their first and only loss of the tour to BC Atletas, a professional squad from Lithuania. Junior forward Reggie Cameron led Georgetown in scoring with 16 points, and freshman center Jessie Govan finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Cameron was one of several Hoyas who received extended minutes during the trip after seeing relatively little game action last year. That was largely the result of senior guard and team leader D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera nursing an ankle injury that kept him on the sidelines for the duration of the trip. Senior center Bradley Hayes was also unable to play in the four games due to recent surgery on his wrist. The sharp-shooting Cameron took full advantage of the opportunity the injuries provided, scoring double-digit points in three of the Hoyas’ four games.
Georgetown finished the tour on a high note, downing the Swiss team SAM Basket Massagno by a final of 76-73. Sophomore forward Trey Mourning, who also saw far more game action during the trip than he did last season, scored 15 points and grabbed four rebounds, while Derrickson capped his visit to Italy with a flourish, chipping in another 15 points.
However, as it is for many of their classmates who travel abroad, the trip was about far more than just business for the Hoyas. The team saw Rome, Florence and Milan during its tour, and while the food and drink may be the highlight of a trip to Italy for most, the splendor of the culture was not lost on any of the players.
“Michelangelo is damn near the GOAT [Greatest of All Time],” sophomore forward Paul White tweeted at one point. “Walking thru the Sistine Chapel was amazing today, yo.”
Ten days after they departed Washington, the Hoyas arrived back on the Hilltop, just in time for a few days of relaxation before the start of the semester. How much the trip will benefit the Blue and Gray from a basketball standpoint remains to be seen. This year, Georgetown is widely expected to carry a top-20 ranking into the start of the season and contend for the Big East title. If they can exceed expectations, as they have in several recent seasons, the trip to Italy could be far from the most noteworthy part of the season for the Hoyas.
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