Patriots Preseason Includes Games in Italy

The George Mason University Men's Basketball team began practices earlier this month in preparation for their 10-day trip to Italy (video courtesy George Mason Athletics)

UPDATED 5:28 p.m. 

George Mason University’s Men’s Basketball team will say “Ciao!” later this month as its members depart from the states to don their jerseys and shoot hoops in Italy.

National Collegiate Athletic Association regulation allows Division I teams to play out of the country every four years, and on Aug. 18, the Patriots will leave to play four preseason games in Italy to prepare for the 2010-2011 season. Taking advantage of the regulation, the Patriots will play four professional — not amateur — teams while overseas. They will return to the states on Aug. 28.

Possibly more important than the games themselves are the ten days of practice the NCAA allows the team to take before embarking on the trip. The team’s first practice was Aug. 1.

“The very first thing is we get a chance to practice together,” said Head Coach Jim Larranaga. “For ten days the guys will be on campus, hanging around together, hopefully bonding and becoming a closer-knit group.”

Even the players feel closer together. “I’m fitting in real well,” said the new freshman forward Jonathan Arledge, a four-sport athlete in high school. “We’re playing basketball every day and we’re getting along.”

“The best thing is getting our whole team to come together more,” said junior forward Mike Morrison. “That’s really the whole point of the trip: team unity. And while we’re out there, getting on the right foot.”

“Unity is a big thing, and that’s going to be one thing that [the trip] brings to us,” said senior guard Cam Long, who will be regarded as the face of the Patriots for the second year. “We can get the feel of how each other play[s] and we are also going to get to know each other better just by . . . hanging out with each other more often.”

During the trip, the players will experience the sights and sounds of cities including Vatican City, Florence and Pisa. The focus, however, is to observe and play at the level of professional basketball currently played overseas to get a jump-start on the season.

“First of all, I just wanted to get the opportunity to play overseas, to play against professionals,” said Long, who recognizes the importance of the early preseason work. “It gives us the opportunity to play together before the season starts.”

The coaches will be able to see the key strengths and weaknesses in the team and will be prepared to maximize the success based on the findings. Other schools will likely be looking at the results as well, since the conference portion is often considered the most important part of the schedule.

“Playing the games should be fun to see the level of play that’s being played over in Italy at the professional level, because these are four professional teams that are going through their preseason training,” said Larranaga. “What it will help us do is put in a little bit of offense, [and] most importantly our defense and our rebounding, [and it will] emphasize those things in preparation for our entire season. . . .This will just be like a part of our nonconference [schedule].”

This will also be the first time that the new freshmen recruits will play with their new team. While overseas, Bryon Allen and Jonathan Arledge will see their first action on the court in their college careers.

“[Like it is for most freshmen], I think . . . the most difficult adjustment will be to the speed and physicality of the game, and you’re learning a whole new way of playing defense, a whole new way of playing offense and it takes a long time to get confident and comfortable,” said Larranaga.

“They’ve got to come in ready to play,” said Morrison of the freshman, not allowing them any leeway once the season begins.

One freshman already has high hopes and is set on what he wants to accomplish on the trip. “I want to be more versatile, especially with shooting [and] posting up,” said Arledge.



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