Men’s Basketball Takes Summer Trip to Italy
Issue   |   Thu, 09/03/2015 - 23:13
Amherst Athletics
Under the captainship of Connor Green ’16, the team hopes to use its experiences in Italy to work towards another national championship.

While the Amherst men’s basketball season typically picks up in early November, the team had an unusual opportunity to play together a little earlier this year. In mid-August, the team took a 10-day trip to Italy, a visit that consisted of team bonding and sightseeing as well as some basketball mixed in along the way.

Coach David Hixon ’75 said that the 10-day trip was actually 10 years in the making. The team raised the necessary funds a decade ago, but a college-wide moratorium on team travel postponed the trip. The moratorium was lifted in 2013, but the team’s national championship run that year made things more hectic for the team, again pushing the off the trip. At that point, it was just a matter of waiting for the right group of guys to take.

“We only lost one senior last year, so I thought this would be the perfect year to go,” Hixon said. “I thought it could improve our chemistry, and I think it really worked out. It was really a great group to do it with.”

The team set out three main goals for the trip before hitting the road. “Bonding and team unity was one, the cultural and intellectual pieces were two and basketball, believe it or not, was three,” Hixon said. “Basketball of course become number one we stepped on the court, but the other pieces were so important and I really think we got A’s on all of them.”

In order to fulfill those first two goals, the team’s schedule was packed to the brim, giving them the chance to see various different attractions while also bonding off the court. Highlights included visits to San Marino, Florence, Rome, Pisa and Milan.

“The amount of stuff that we saw, did, experienced and learned was just absolutely mind boggling,” Hixon said.

As for their time spent on the court, the team was able to work three practice sessions and two games into their busy schedule. Basketball in Europe required some adjusting by the Jeffs. David George ’17 said that the European referees tended to be stricter, especially in their traveling calls. Players and coaches are also restricted from calling a timeout while the ball is in play.

Despite these differences, the team managed to go 1-1 in their games. They defeated the Team Italy All-Stars in their first matchup, before falling to the Adriatic Sea Tritons in game 2.

“I believe the trip benefited our chemistry both on and off the court and also raised our anticipation for the upcoming season,” George said. “I also think that splitting our two games against professional Italian teams after not playing with each other in months boosted our confidence and expectations for this year.”

Hixon said the trip helped facilitate some much-needed team bonding .

“Some really magical things happened over there, and the guys are just so much closer now that I think it’s really going to pay dividends,” he said.

The Jeffs will be able to bring their newly improved team chemistry back to the court when preseason training begins on Sunday, Nov. 1.