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University of Chicago Department of Athletics & Recreation

Men's Basketball: Italy 2006 blog

First off, on behalf of the team, I would like to thank both coaching staffs and everyone else whose hard work made this trip happen. The trip featured a perfect combination of experiencing each city through the designated tours along with the ability to explore on our own time. Personally, I enjoyed Florence the best because of its "Chicago-like" feel when walking through the city. Maybe I'm just biased though. All in all, the experiences I had with my teammates in Italy is something that I will never forget. I hope trips like this one can continue to occur including more and more of the Chicago basketball family each time.

- Drew Adams

Going to Italy was a wonderful experience. Besides seeing many of the main attractions we had a chance to experience the daily culture; and while different than ours, it was both interesting and educational. Though the sites were unforgettable, the real memories just came from going with such a great group of guys. It's not often that one gets to visit such a fascinating country with some of his best friends. That is a trip that none of us will soon forget and we owe a large debt of gratitude to both the coaches and fellow supporters for making it all happen. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the work they put into this trip, and for putting up with all of us for ten days. We had the opportunity to compete internationally, see the country, and have a great time hanging out with each other. So thanks to all who made it possible, because it could not have gone any better and we'll always be thankful for having this chance.

- Jesse Meyer

The Italy trip was all that I could have imagined for our program, which is saying a lot as I had high expectations for its impact. The practices and games while there will have a tremendously positive impact on our team. The experience of traveling in such a great country and seeing the many sights is one that the kids will never forget. The bonding and unity that will develop as a result of this trip will be immense. Most of all, however, the support that our players received from our friends, alumni, and family helps to create an atmosphere that lets the guys know that being a part of the Chicago basketball program means being part of something that encompasses more than just the current coaches and players. Hope to see you during the season!

- Coach McGrath

Monday, Sept. 18

We got up early in the morning and departed from San Marino for our bus trip to Venice. Once we arrived in Venice we took a boat to the group of islands that make up Venice.

The city was incredibly beautiful and unique. We spent a couple of hours walking the narrow streets along the waterways of Venice. In the afternoon we took a formal tour of the city, including the San Marco Cathedral. It was interesting to note the differences between the main churches of each city, and the basilica of Venice clearly reflected the city with its Mosaic tile designs.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the city of Venice was the vast multitude of pigeons - something nobody expected and shown in the attached picture.

- Coach McGrath

After a private boat transported us to the city of Venice, we had time to spend on our own before the guided tour. The city was even more visually amazing than I had expected. The pigeons in San Marco square were surreal. Basically my Venice expereience can be described in three words "Tom Equals Birdman".

- Kirk Ellsworth

Sunday, Sept. 17

We started the day with a formal tour of the town of San Marino and learning of the history of the country. We learned that the country selects two new presidents every six months; many of the guys are considering moving to San Marino as the odds of becoming president would be in their favor considering the population of the country is only 29,000.

After seeing many of the historical sights, including a competition site for cross bow contests (San Marino has one of the top cross bow teams in the world), many of the guys climbed to the top of the castle which sits atop of the mountain. The views were amazing.

After exploring the streets for the afternoon, the team played its second game in the evening. Despite not shooting well, we won the game by a score of 92-36. It turns out that it has been challenging to face the top competition at this point of the year as many of the teams are participating in their national tournaments.

- Coach McGrath

The Republic of San Marino is a beautiful nation of 29,000 people tucked away in the foggy mountains of Italy. The view from our mountain top hotel and the ancient castle that is the main attraction of the small nation were breathtaking.

With our trip winding down and our souls aching for our long lost teammates Jake, Marek, Jon and Adam, or Father Time as we now call him, we chose to spend two quiet nights taking in the remarkable scenery and reflecting about our recent time spent in Roma and Firenze.

While the time we spent here was more relaxed than the other cities I would highly recommend a stop in this ancient republic to anyone lucky enough to visit the lovely nation of Italia.

- Nate Hainje

Saturday, Sept. 16

Unfortunately, for the first time on the trip, the weather was less than ideal. The good part was that it came on the day that we spent the morning on the bus in route from Florence to the Adriatic Coast. The disappointing part was that the weather never improved and the guys were supposed to spend the afternoon at the beach. We took a short ride along the coastline and saw the miles of beaches that are filled with travelers during the traditional European holiday (vacation) month of August.

We continued on to our next stop, San Marino. San Marino is an independent republic state within Italy and sits atop Mount Titano. We drove to our hotel at the top of the mountain and explored the streets of the town and looking down over the Italian countryside, despite the fact that the weather continued to be not so great. Much of the evening was spent relaxing in the hotel lobby and playing cards due to the weather.

- Coach McGrath

Friday, Sept. 15

Today was an up close look at the art of Florence. We took trip to the Uffizi Art Museum and the Galleria dell'Accademia where the famous Michelangelo statue of David is kept.

The pieces of art were amazing and the statue of David overwhelming. One of the guys joked that the statue showed a David that was so big and powerful, that the Goliath must have actually been afraid of him.

The evening was spent with more exploration of the streets of the city. Tomorrow we board the bus early and head for the Adriatic Sea.

- Coach McGrath

The most memorable moment that I had during my time in Florence was the incredible dinner at Il Latini. The dinner started with an amazing toast by coach and the conversation and laughter that ensued never stopped. The three-hour plus marathon of dinner included a seemingly never ending supply of delicious food. It was easily one of the best dinners I've ever had. Sorry Mom.

- Tom Watson

While in Florence some of us were lucky enough to be able to make it to the top of the Duomo- a cathedral in the center of the city. Even though the hike up was hard - it was463 steps long- the amazing views that we saw made it well worth it. The bird's-eye views of the city and surrounding countryside definitely left a lasting impression on me.

- Derek Brannon

We had a great time in Florence. The city and surrounding countryside were beautiful, and the view from atop the Duomo was amazing. Our mornings were spent on tours and in museums such as the Academy of Art, where we saw Michelangelo's David. During the afternoons and nights we were on our own exploring the city and its enormous street market.

- Zach Sheline

Thursday, Sept. 14

The team started the day with a formal tour of Florence. This included seeing the outdoor markets (see the picture of the guys rubbing the Boar's Nose which means a return trip to Florence), the Ponte Vecchio, Brunelleschi's Cathedral, and the Palazzo Vecchio.

In the afternoon, a number of the guys took the plunge and climbed 463 steps to the top of the Dome of the cathedral to take a view of the city. Many others just roamed the streets to check out the city.

The evening included a great traditional Italian meal at Il Latini with the women's team. The food was great (and most importantly to the guys there was lots of it!) and the atmosphere very traditional. A lot of funny stories were shared and everyone had a blast!

- Coach McGrath

Wednesday, Sept. 13

Today we took a scenic bus ride into Tuscany from Rome along the Mediterranean Coast.

The views were terrific as we made our way to Pisa where we got the opportunity to see the famous leaning tower (see attached big man Zach Sheline using his impressive strength to knock it over while the team fights to keep it up!), as well as the Duomo, or Church, and adjoining Baptistry.

The team was amazed that there was so much more to Pisa than just the tower.

We continued our way on to Florence where we had dinner andspent the evening exploring the streets.

Tomorrow we'll take a closer look at the city and its history.

- Coach McGrath

Tuesday, Sept. 12

I thought Rome was simply the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It was amazing to just be walking around or eating among thousand-year old ruins and to have the opportunity to see the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Vatican was something I will remember forever. All of these and the overwhelming historical aura of the city were my favorite parts of Rome.

- Jason Vismantas

As I walked through the streets of Rome, I felt like I had stepped back hundreds of years in time. It seemed as if every street corner held an irreplaceable piece of ancient Roman or Italian history. Inside the Vatican, the masterpieces of Michelangelo and pagan Greek sculptors blended seamlessly with the frescos which made for memories that I will never forget.

- Tim Reynolds

Rome is an unbelievable city that feels and looks as if it has transcended time. The amount of world history that can be found in this one place is overwhelming. During our visit to my favorite place in Rome, The Vatican, I constantly found myself distracted from the tour guide because of the visual appeal and detail of the art surrounding me. Simply put, I tried to experience all that I could in a city where an infinite amount of history exists.

- Brandon Woodhead

Our last day in Rome was spectacular! We spent the morning taking a tour of the Vatican, including the museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and St. Peter's Square. The art and history of the Vatican were overwhelming. It was almost a case of sensory overload as you looked around at the frescoes and sculptures within the Vatican. The team spent the rest of the day exploring various parts of Rome. We get up early on Wednesday to move on to Pisa and Florence.

- Coach McGrath

Monday, Sept. 11

The team had another great day exploring Rome, seeing sights such as the Pantheon (right), the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Piazza Navona with the Four Rivers Fountain. The history and art are amazing!

- Coach McGrath

We had our first game tonight against a local club team and won by a score of 88-60. While the competition wasn't great, the experience of playing against the unique European style under international rules was one the team truly enjoyed. It will be interesting to see how the group adapts to these changes in their next game.

- Coach McGrath

Sunday, Sept. 10

After a long day of travel, the University of Chicago men's basketball team enjoyed its first day in Rome on Sunday. We arrived safely around noon, and everyone had all of their luggage. We checked into our hotel and began to explore the city.

Our day today consisted of a tour of the Coliseum and Forum ruins in ancient Rome. The guys really enjoyed the size and scope of the Coliseum, while getting a sense of the great history of the structure. Obviously the gladiator references were frequent, but the tour guide was excellent in painting a picture of what took place there centuries ago.

After walking around the city, we returned to the hotel for some much needed rest. Monday will be a free day for the team to explore Rome on its own with our first game that evening. We will send more messages and pictures as the trip goes along.

- Coach McGrath