European Trip Blog: The Wrap-Up
August 26, 2012
The Broncos concluded their 10-day journey in Europe with a busy Sunday, making the relatively short jaunt from Nice to Monaco for sightseeing and a game. The team traveled to Monaco, the second-smallest sovereign nation in the world (coincidentally, just a few days after seeing THE smallest nation in the world, Vatican City) and a place of great wealth and history. The road to Monaco provided a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea, and the sight of luxury yachts and automobiles elicited awed reactions from the team.
After parking the bus, the team took the opportunity to take a short walking tour of Monaco, starting outside the Oceanographic Institute and making their way to the Cathedral where all the deceased sovereigns of Monaco are buried, including Princess Grace. The team made their way up the winding streets to the square just outside the Palace of Monaco before going their separate ways for a few hours, free to explore the narrow streets and restaurants.
After a short while, the team went to the Stade Louis II arena in Monaco for their second straight game against professional competition, and their final of the trip. The Broncos held their own against a high-end professional opponent for the second straight game, nearly erasing a second half deficit to defeat Monaco. The Broncos joined their opponents for a post-game meal in the arena before departing back for their hotel in Nice.
After having their final night in Nice to explore and relax, the Broncos boarded the bus early Monday morning, bound for the Nice airport. After a nine-hour flight, the team arrived at JFK International Airport in New York City.
August 25, 2012
Q: You lost to Antibes on Saturday, a professional team that is ranked near the top of the second-best league in Europe. Obviously, that was a tough draw, but the team didn't back down from the pros.
Brandon Pokley: Obviously it was a good experience for us. It seemed like we were ready to play a team that was more competitive. The first two games gave us the chance to see how our own team adjusted to playing together, but this gave us the chance to see how we stacked up against one of the better teams in the European leagues.
When we had issues against Antibes, it was because we weren't getting back in transition or because we weren't crashing the glass. When we were doing those two things, for example, we were able to take the lead on them. That went a long way; we feel that if we can stick with our assignments, we can stay with pros.
Q: The time here in Nice is pretty limited because of the two game days. How have you spent your time?
Pokley: The first day was the day I spent walking around on the beach, which is much different than in the United States because the beaches are entirely made of rocks. After the game yesterday, a group of us walked around the hotel. There was a carnival of some sort on the promenade right outside the hotel; they shut down the streets and had music, floats, and some other attractions.
Q: After the game against Monaco on Sunday, you're bound for a flight back to the States. Will you miss Europe much?
Pokley: Yes and no. It's gone by very quickly, so it's hard to believe we're done here. It's been an absolutely fantastic learning experience for us. At the same time, as great as an opportunity this has been, it'll be nice to sleep in my own bed in a few days.
August 24, 2012
Q: Well, we've left Italy behind and we're in the beach town of Nice, France. What differences have you noticed so far?
Austin Richie: I like it. It's a little different than Rome and Florence; both of those places felt a lot more laid back and relaxed, and this place is more wired. Italy was more relaxed, this feels a little more wired. It's a beautfiful, though. I love the fact that we're right on the water. I've never been to France before - or Europe, for that matter - so I'm enjoying it.
Q: Anything else different?
Richie: It's definitely more of a melting pot here. It seems like there are many more different cultures around here than even in Rome. I guess because this is more of a vacation destination. It just seems like we heard more different languages here in one day than we did in Florence or Rome.
Q: You had about half the day to yourself after we got to Nice. What did you do?
Richie: Jared Klein, Brandon Pokley, Nate Hutcheson, Taylor Johnson and I walked through the city and streets. We saw this waterfall up the street that we wanted to check out, but it was part of another hotel and was closed for the evening. We ended up just grabbing some frozen yogurt and calling it a night after not too long.
August 23, 2012
Q: Well it seems like we made it to Florence, and we're already getting back on the road today. Are you disappointed at all?
Darius Paul: I'll be a little sad to leave Florence. It's smaller than Rome but it seems like with the shopping and all the art, there might actually be more to do. I do know that Nice is a beach town, though, so I am looking forward to that part of the trip.
Q: We were able to fit in a lot of sightseeing in one morning in Florence. What stuck out to you?
Paul: The entire tour stood out to me, because our tour guide was very knowledgeable. I liked the fact that back when these statutes were made, they were just put out in the public for everyone to see for free, and they're still like that now in a lot of cases. Getting the chance to see the statue of David by Michelangelo was a great time, too.
Q: You're at the halfway point of the trip, playing with your new teammates. What can you tell us about what we'll see in the second half?
Paul: I think our whole team progressed. We're getting better at organization on both offense and defense. I think you'll keep seeing us play with more togetherness and not as sloppy as the first two games.
Q: You've got Antibes tomorrow, and they're a very well-renowned team in Europe. There's even a MAC connection in Trevor Huffman, who helped Kent State to the Elite Eight in 2002.
Richie: It's a jump in the level of competition, no doubt. We started off with two good teams, but everything we've heard has led me to believe that these teams are even better. I think most of the people here are looking forward to the challenge.
August 22, 2012
Q: You took an early trip to the small mountain town of Cascia yesterday. How much of a different experience was it?
Nate Hutcheson: Cascia was definitely a more rustic place with a small town atmosphere. Things are moving at a different pace there. The town was very religious; it was the birthplace of St. Rita and for such a small town, there were quite a few churches there, as well as a convent and a monastery. The food was great too; there were a couple of good sandwich shops.
The landscape there was really hilly, and surrounded by forests and mountains. You actually had to use escalators to get around the area. It was so different from Rome.
Q: It seemed like you played a tighter game yesterday against Stella Azzurra.
Hutcheson: It's getting better every game. We knew it was going to be rough for the first few games and that we would need to build upon our mistakes to improve. We're more organized on offense and defense. Going in to yesterday, we thought our defense needed to fix our transition and help-side defenses, and I think we did that yesterday.
Q: We pulled into Florence late in the evening. Impressions so far?
Hutcheson: There's just art everywhere, it seems like. It was cool when we went to the Sistine Chapel, it's just surreal to see the things you grew up seeing in textbooks. Here they have the statue of David and so many other art galleries. Again, it's one of those things you grow up seeing in books.
Q: You've been here since Saturday. How much Italian have you picked up?
Hutcheson: Very little. I know the basics. Non capisco. (laughs)
August 21, 2012
Q: So how did you decide to spend your last day in Rome?
Shayne Whittington:I walked around quite a bit. I was so jet-lagged on the first day that I didn't get the chance to see much, so I squeezed a lot in on Tuesday. We went to the Pantheon in the morning, and then walked down to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain later. David Brown couldn't walk around too much because of his crutches, so he took a cab back to the hotel while Tim Brennan and I walked around on our own. It was nice; because it's not every day you can walk around in Rome.
One thing that stood out to me was the Trevi Fountain. It is absolutely beautiful. It's not all the time you see something like that. I threw my coin in the fountain and made a wish to return to Rome one day.
After that, I came back to the hotel and relaxed for the evening. We found a station that plays American movies, but they all have Arabic subtitles! In the evening I tried to contact my family. I haven't had the chance to talk with them too much, but I've kept up with Facebook, texts, things like that.
Q: Are you sad to leave Rome?
Whittington: It's a little bittersweet. I really do think I'll miss this place a lot because of everything we've seen and done. I've always thought about living in Europe after graduation, and this experience has really strengthened that desire. I'll miss the sights and the different culture. But honestly, I also kind of miss being back home.
Q: You've got your second game of the trip coming up. After the first game, what are you excited about?
Whittington: I thought everyone played well on the first night; obviously, it's the first game of the year, and it's not even October, but I thought we looked pretty good despite that. I'm impressed with how we responded on the first day. There are still some things to work on, but we had good team chemistry. I'm excited for the next game.
Q: What are you looking forward to seeing in Florence?
Whittington: I don't know much about Florence, so I'm being open-minded about it. I do know that I need to take some more pictures.
August 20, 2012
The Broncos had a full schedule on their third day in Rome, beginning with a trip to Vatican City early in the morning. After an early breakfast, the Broncos braved the Rome traffic and were dropped off at the walls of Vatican City. After a trip through security, the team entered the Vatican museum, which is filled with priceless artifacts from the history of Italy, including items that date back to the ancient Roman days as well as the Etruscans, the ancient inhabitants of this region.
After a walk through that portion of the museum, the team headed to a courtyard to learn more about the Sistine Chapel, which they would see later. The Chapel is still considered the private chapel of the Pope, and all photography is forbidden. In addition, visitors to the Sistine Chapel are not allowed to speak loudly inside the room. After a trip through the Hall of Tapestries, which date back as far as 500 years, the Broncos entered the Chapel, home of many of Michelangelo's masterpieces, including "The Final Judgment."
The team departed the Chapel and immediately appeared in St. Peter's Square, a massive public meeting place situated at the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica. The Broncos then entered the church, which is the largest Catholic church in the world and home of the remains of the Popes throughout the centuries. After spending some time taking photos and asking questions about the history of the church, the team departed and explored the Square.
The Broncos returned to the hotel for lunch and took it easy in the afternoon as they prepared for their first game against European competition. The team traveled to the town of Fondi, a Mediterranean city located in the region called Gaeta (Rome, conversely, is located in Lazio). The bus trip was a long one - nearly three hours - but the team was afforded a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea from the roads situated on the cliffs above.
The Broncos arrived at the venue and exchanged gifts with their hosts before the game; afterwards, children and other fans approached the team for photos, autographs, and Bronco t-shirts. The team boarded the bus and returned to the hotel around midnight, Roman time.
August 19, 2012
Note: The Broncos' game against Basket Fondi, originally scheduled for today, was pushed back to Monday, August 20.
Q: How has everyone adjusted to the massive time change from the United States to Rome?
Jared Klein: We're still adjusting, but I think everyone is pretty much back to normal at this point. We were told the trick was to try and get on schedule as quickly as possible in Rome, so we tried to keep active in the daytime and avoid falling asleep. I think it helped that we were so excited to have the day off in Rome and see everything out there.
Q: What kind of sightseeing did you do today?
Klein: I went out with Austin Richie and Brandon Pokley, and I swear we went everywhere we could this afternoon. We started out at the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, which are fairly close to each other, and then we started walking out towards the Colosseum. We went through some of the downtown shopping district west of the hotel.
After we traveled around there, we headed back closer to the hotel and went to the Villa Borghese, which is a huge park behind the hotel. We saw this enormous building, almost like a castle there and ate at a local pizzeria.
Q: What have been your favorite sights so far?
Klein: The way that all the plazas and sidewalk vendors and restaurants are lit up at night is pretty cool. There are restaurants and cafes everywhere on the sidewalks, with people playing music at a few of them.
Q: How have you been overcoming the language barrier? Who has picked it up the fastest?
Klein: I like the language barrier; it makes it interesting to find new ways to communicate. Luckily, most of the people can speak a little English, or at least enough that we can find some common ground and get around.
As for who has picked up Italian the fastest, I think Pokley really knows his stuff. He's done a lot in terms of getting directions and just opening up some basic communication with the locals.
Q: You're set to play in your first game with your college teammates tomorrow. How does it feel?
Klein: It's going to be great. It will be our first chance to see how our team plays together against an opponent, and with so many freshmen it will be interesting. We've had a lot of practice together, and it'll be fun to put it to use, and finally play against some different for a change.
August 18, 2012
Q: How was the the travel?
Dan Loney: I think the travel was a good experience. We left campus and headed to the Detroit airport and cuaght a direct flight to Rome. Our flight took off at 6 p.m. Eastern and landed at 9 a.m. in Rome, which our body was telling us was actually 3 a.m. Obviously, a nine-hour flight is a little longer than people want to deal with, but I would take that any day with the chance to go to Europe. After we landed, we met our tour group and took a short bus tour of Rome before heading to the Colosseum and the Forum.
Q: What were your favorite sights on the first day of the trip?
Loney: The Colosseum was incredible! I've seen the movie "Gladiator" but didn't realize how big it was, or the amount of work it would take to build such a great arena. Coach Hawkins pointed out how flat and level the building was, and how perfectly round off it was, despite the fact it was built without any major equipment. That's pretty amazing to me, how human hands could do that on their own.
It was a great interactive tour; we could actually see the chambers underneath, stand where the emperor sat during the games, and were able to explore all over the arena.
The other thing that impressed me was something that really surprised me; I guess it never occurred to me just how ancient Rome is. So many of the things we've seen today have been here for thousands of years. You can really appreciate the old phrase, "Rome wasn't built in a day;" we saw columns from temples that were nearly 3,000 years old!
Q: How was your first taste of authentic Italian cuisine?
Loney: The first thing I had today was spaghetti, and I was really surprised by how particular they were about their noodles. They were cooked just right. The sauce is also pretty fresh, without a lot of seasonings or ingredients. It definitely has a different taste than what we're used to back home.
I also liked the way the meals were served in phases, with each of the courses of the meal served separately. The waiters don't really come by too often. The meal is more of a social thing, so they don't like to interrupt. It was different to have your drink served to you without ice, too.
Q: You have a bit of a free day tomorrow. Where are you heading?
Loney: I want to make the short walk to the Spanish Steps; apparently it's awesome. I want to go to the Trevi Fountain, which is a short walk from there as well.