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LSU head coach Trent Johnson
Photo by:Steve Franz, LSU Athletics Staff Photographer
Basketball to Depart for Italy Exhibition Tour
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Published: May 16, 2011, 05:57 PM (CT)
Updated: May 17, 2011, 11:20 AM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE - The LSU men's basketball team will leave Tuesday for an 11-day exhibition tour of Italy with five games scheduled in Rome and Varese/Milan area.

Those players going on the tour include the nine returning letterman from the 2010-11 LSU basketball squad and redshirts Justin Hamilton and Andrew Del Piero.

The privately funded tour is the first abroad by LSU since the summer of 2000 when the team toured Italy. LSU participated in a Labor Day Weekend trip to Toronto in 2007.

The team will play up to six games starting on May 19 against Virtus Frusino at 8:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. Baton Rouge time). The game that night and the following night against Anagni Basket will be played in the Rome Palazzetto dello Sport, the site of the 1960 Olympic basketball competition.

In Varese, some 60 miles north of Milan, the Tigers will play the city team of Varese on May 24, a team of players from the Armani Jeans team of the Euroleague on May 25 and finally a team from the city of Castellanza on May 26, before returning to Baton Rouge on May 27.

One other game is tentatively being scheduled with members of the Italian Under 19 team.

Under NCAA rules, LSU signees for the 2011-12 season are not allowed to participate in this event.

Coach Trent Johnson met with the media on Monday about the trip:

Opening Statement ...
"We'll get six games in Italy in 11 days and then in our off days we will tour and probably practice. The big emphasis for us is getting better in all facets of our game, but primarily defensively in zone and man. We have some things we're going to do different next year in terms of pushing the ball to the sideline. Offensively, we're looking at some motion and then giving Justin Hamilton a chance to get some games under his belt and eliminate some rust. From a standpoint of where they are at physically and mentally obviously when you have five practices in three days their intensity and excitement level is pretty high. I think this trip is going to be worth our while from a standpoint that I knew we have a veteran group, so it's a good thing for us."

On the level of competition they will face in Italy ...
"Usually when you go overseas its hit and miss. I say that from an experience standpoint.  I took a team before my last year in Stanford to Italy in late August because we were on the quarter system so school didn't start until September. We were catching a lot of professional teams at that time getting ready for their season, but here we're catching those guys probably on their way out. Italy is where the players are, and the competition and overall competitiveness is going to be good because they can all shoot it, they're all going to be men and you're going to be traveling and playing. When I say hit and miss it's not like you're going to go into a game and know exactly who you are playing against. It's going to be older guys. It would be like playing against collegiate players who haven't played for a year or two, but it will be plenty good for us."

On the value of taking a trip like this ...
"The value is you're playing against men. Not that this team needs team chemistry or camaraderie, we need to get better in all facets. The cultural experience is valuable. Anytime you go out of this country you know how fortunate and how blessed you are to live here. There are a lot of guys on this team that have never been anywhere."

On how the offseason workouts have been ...
"It's been good. Our biggest emphasis is mentally and physically getting to where we need to be from a toughness standpoint, and them understanding you will have to play harder for shorter periods of time because we have a level of depth. Our big emphasis offensively is implementing motion, which I think will help this team because of the addition of some guys who can put it on the floor such as Anthony (Hickey) and John Isaac. We're not worried about our set stuff, we're worried about putting these guys in situations where they can make plays. With the 24 second clock in international rules it teaches you to play faster which is going to help us."

On what he's talked to team about regarding the trip ...
"I've been talking about practice and getting better. My sole focus with this basketball team has been about getting better and being positive and understanding where we're going to be. Moving forward I want these guys to be positive and understand the pressure and expectations that we put on ourselves and treat it that way going into this trip just like they will be going into next year. There's going to be a lot of guys that will have the opportunity to be aggressive and make plays with the 24 second shot clock."

On how Justin Hamilton will fit into the lineup on the trip ...
"If we've got six games I might start two different lineups. The thing with Justin (Hamilton) is he's going to be in there with a combination of him and Storm (Warren) or him and Malcolm (White). Those three are going to get maximum minutes. I'm going to play them until they drop. Going into this trip I'm trying to get everyone playing but the rotation in the post of Justin, Malcolm and Storm is going to be real important."

On how competitive the games will be ...
"I wouldn't go over there to not be challenged. My experience is I had a team at Stanford that went to the Sweet 16, and we went over there and were 4-3. We had one environment that was as hostile as I've ever been around. I do know this, the way the game is called and the physicality is going to help us from a toughness standpoint. The majority of the teams will be guys who have played professional, and then we will play the Italy 19 and under team. The competition is going to be more than worthy."

 

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