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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Men's basketball makes strides on and off the court in Italy tour

The Eagles visited historic sites and faced international competition during their team trip in Italy

The American University men’s basketball team played against Italian basketball academies in a nine-day tour of Italy from Aug. 14 to Aug. 23. 

Global Sports and Events hosted the tour, which  featured three matches, according to the team’s travel blog. This was the team’s first international trip in six years and many of the players’ first time in Europe. During the excursion, first-year head coach Duane Simpkins, a former professional basketball player in Italy, secured his first win as an Eagle and shared his favorite Italian destinations with his new team.

The team’s itinerary included visits to Naples, Rome and Florence, where they explored iconic landmarks such as Pompeii, the Colosseum and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Additionally, they explored the Vatican and the Accademia Gallery while enjoying traditional Italian dinners at local restaurants. Family and friends joined the players and coaching staff on various outings, including a bike tour in Lucca and a boat tour around Positano and Amalfi.

For sophomore forward Noah Jones, the trip was an eye-opening experience. 

“It was my first time out of the country in general, not just for basketball,” Jones said. “It was really great seeing all the sites that I grew up learning about in school, and for basketball to afford me the opportunity to go see these places and have those experiences in person was really amazing.”

The team’s first game took place in Rome against Stella Azzurra Basketball Academy on Aug. 19. They secured an impressive 84-36 victory, including a 25-3 run in the first half, showcasing dominant and energetic defense despite a lack of air conditioning in the gym.

Sophomore forward Nick Marshall, a recent transfer to AU, felt that the trip helped him connect with his new teammates.

“Being able to basically live with the guys for ten straight days and see them everyday helped me a lot. You get to talk to everyone about what they like,” Marshall said. “You get to bond with them and talk to them more about basketball than on campus where everyone just goes back to the dorms.”

The second and third games took place in Florence on Aug. 21 and 22, respectively, against Orange1 Basket Bassano. During the game, the eagles had to adjust to FIBA basketball rules, common in European countries, where many moves considered legal in American basketball are deemed traveling violations.

In game two, Orange1 had a great three-point shooting team. Orange1’s players also moved well without the ball. Despite Orange1’s impressive shooting performance, the Eagles gained the lead in the third quarter but ultimately lost 89-80. Sophomore guard Geoff Sprouse led the team with 15 points, while junior guard Ellijah Stephens contributed 14 points, and senior guard, and native Italian, Lorenzo Donadio had 10. 

Donadio, who grew up in Rome, enjoyed his trip back home.

“My favorite part was when my family came to watch me,” Donadio said. “Living here they don’t have the opportunity to watch me often, so it was really nice, and they were really happy to see me.”. Donadio said he also enjoyed showing his teammates familiar sites.

The rematch in game three against Orange1 took place on the final day of the trip, with the Eagles securing an impressive 85-51 win. This was thanks to the team’s improvement in shooting, especially from freshmen small forwards Matt Mayock and Gibraltar Coleman, who had 13 and 12 points, respectively. Donadio led all scorers with 16 points, and sophomore center Jermaine Ballisager Webb scored 10 points.

“We were moving the ball well, and going overseas you can't really be too concerned about actual shooting percentages and what shots are going in and out,” Jones said. “You're just more concerned about the quality of the shots that you’re getting. I think overall we did a pretty good job of that.”

First-year assistant coach Ike Tate was particularly impressed by the team's victory and their overall performance during the trip. 

“I think we have a great group that is more connected than you would think a group is, especially with a new staff coming in,” Tate said. “I think we have a lot of upside. We have good kids who have bought into playing hard.”

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis. 

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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