Vols to play four exhibition basketball games in Italy in August

Cuonzo Martin realized when he took over the Tennessee men's basketball program that, like a fine wine, aging would be a crucial part of improvement.

So Martin, who was hired last March, made the decision to postpone the four-year overseas exemption trip the Vols were eligible to take last summer.

UT issued a release on Wednesday announcing plans to pull the cork on the trip, which will take place Aug. 5-15 and include a four-game schedule against club and professional teams with travels through: Rome, The Vatican City, Florence, Pisa, the Republic of San Marino, Lake Como and Milan. Fans are invited to join the team on the tour.

"This trip is going to be great for our team and also great for our fans,' Martin said in a UT release. "For our team, it provides a chance to gain valuable time together on and off the court. For our fans, it's a chance to combine a European vacation with the opportunity to cheer for their Vols while also traveling with the team.

"They'll feel like they're part of the program — which is how it should be — because they are an important part of everything we do.''

Martin said when he took over he expected his first season to be somewhat of a transition; UT was green from an experience standpoint, returning just one starter.

The players, Martin said, would need at least one season to become accustomed to his system and expectations.

The Vols surprised many when, after being picked to finish 11th in the league at the SEC Media Day in October, they finished second in the conference and earned a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.

UT ended its season with a 19-15 record losing to Middle Tennessee State, 71-64, in the second round of the NIT at Thompson-Boling Arena.

On Tuesday, ESPN national analyst Andy Katz ranked the Vols No. 24 in his offseason top 25 poll.

The summer tour likely factored into the logic.

The NCAA adopted a new rule since the most Vols' overseas excursion, August of 2007 — to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria — as incoming freshmen were not allowed on such trips at the time.

The only returning UT player not eligible to make this trip is walk-on point guard Cory Stanton.

Stanton enrolled at UT at midterm after beginning his collegiate career on scholarship at Clemson in 2010 before transferring to Lipscomb last fall, triggering an NCAA stipulation relating to Division I transfer's eligibility for four-year exemption trips.

NCAA rules allow UT limited team practice opportunities leading up to the trip, giving the Vols a head start on the other non-excursion teams who can't begin team practice until October.

Martin played professional basketball in Italy for the Felize Scandone franchise in Avellino, Italy (1997).

Coincidentally, former UT player Ron Slay (2000-03) now plays for that same franchise.

Fans can learn more about the trip and purchase a travel package to accompany the team by calling Basketball Travelers at 425-776-2775, or by going to the website at https://ems.resrunner.com/tennessee. The deadline to purchase the travel package is May. 1

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 8

keepitreal4vols writes:

Im sure I can't afford the trip cost so I will catch you guys when you return home. Should be a blast.

CoverOrange writes:

Will the Euro still be in existence then?

Seriously, good timing for much needed practice.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

Thanks for allowing fans to go. Let me reach into my pocket and get the money that will cost.

TeamXer writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Thanks for allowing fans to go. Let me reach into my pocket and get the money that will cost.

I'm going. Crashing at Slay's casa.

dvols writes:

Really, Cory Stanton cannot go????

Im calling Calipari....

pms151 writes:

Who wrote this? KNS or the UT Athletic Department. Oh I get it! They are the same folks.

AtopTheHill06 writes:

These types of overseas exhibition games are often known for having refs that are biased toward the home team, because they are usually citizens of the host country. Don't let the refs or the fans get under your skin. And don't let them sucker you into a brawl, like Georgetown when they played in China (I Think).

These games are not a vacation, they're a business trip.

Volsfanofmemphis writes:

Goodluck on the trip guys. We will be cheerring u guys on all the time ur there. True it is not a vacation for the team but a chance to get to know each other game much better. life is to short so enjoy the trip have some fun because the true test starts in October, so be ready or coach will be gone in April. Go Vols Go

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