Vols explore Rome on first day of trip to Italy

Basketball team explores sights in Rome

The Tennessee men’s basketball team looks ready for battle, but no pickup games allowed at the Colosseum. From left to right: Rob Murphy, Kenny Hall, Skylar McBee, D’Montre Edwards, Nicodemus Christopher, Jordan McRae, Brandon Lopez, Quinton Chievous, Jarnell Stokes, Yemi Makanjuola, Trae Golden, Derek Reese, Armani Moore and Dwight Miller visit Rome’s most famous attraction on Day 1 of Tennessee’s tour of Italy on Monday.

Photo by Brendan F. Quinn/News Sentinel

The Tennessee men’s basketball team looks ready for battle, but no pickup games allowed at the Colosseum. From left to right: Rob Murphy, Kenny Hall, Skylar McBee, D’Montre Edwards, Nicodemus Christopher, Jordan McRae, Brandon Lopez, Quinton Chievous, Jarnell Stokes, Yemi Makanjuola, Trae Golden, Derek Reese, Armani Moore and Dwight Miller visit Rome’s most famous attraction on Day 1 of Tennessee’s tour of Italy on Monday.

Martin, Vols tour Rome's Colosseum

Dwight Miller on the Vols' first morning in Rome

Basketball team explores sights in Rome

By Brendan F. Quinn

Brendan.Quinn@knoxnews.com

ROME — The gypsies, peddling trinkets and knickknacks were eyed suspiciously.

The hectic streets, sliced this way and that by funny looking men on funnier looking mopeds were difficult to follow.

The fatigue, born from 16 hours of travel including a nine-hour jaunt across the Atlantic, was undeniable.

Tennessee men's basketball arrived in Italy at 7:23 a.m. local time Monday under Rome's nascent sun. The Vols' 10-day trip abroad began in haste. New experiences rushed upon them before they could adjust their psyche, let along their internal clocks.

Temperatures hovered in the mid-70s, before darting into the 90s by mid-morning.

The hotel would wait. A morning tour of Rome's zigzagging streets topped the docket.

Modern-day differences, like gas prices creeping toward 10 American dollars per gallon, raised eyes just as high as ancient wonders like the Pyramid of Cestius, a tomb for Gaius Cestius built circa 12 BC along the once towering, now crumbling, city walls.

"You just look around and there's history — I think people take it for granted," UT senior forward Dwight Miller later said. "Where our world is today and how we got here, I think people sometimes skip steps."

The Vols took every one of them Monday.

As the UT bus slowed to the curbside following an hour on the road, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum awaited. So did a scorching sun, throngs of camera-snapping tourists and, of course, those damn gypsies.

Warnings of rampant Italian pickpocketing shook the Vols. Haggard but happy, they kept their

heads on a swivel. Happy to report there were ultimately no victims.

Upon the grounds of the Roman Forum, some of the UT players could be seen stopping and traveling back in time. Not everyone went for the ride, but a few took the trip. It's the natural influence of the ruins. The Forum was a marketplace of public speeches, commerce and elections.

Look hard enough and it comes back to life.

"You see what's been put together over the course of time — it just opened my eyes to what really went on in history," said junior forward D'Montre Edwards, a first time traveler abroad.

While drifting through the old city center, the Vols were reminded that SEC rivalries know no bounds. A pocket of South Carolina passerby's hollered, "Go Gamecocks!" Moments later, a man donning an Alabama visor approached Edwards and a few teammates to belt, "Go Bama!" in their puzzled faces.

"We just looked at him and was like, 'Yeah, right,' and kept right on going," Edwards said.

Snaking through the leftovers of the empire, the Arch of Titus, a triumph of the 1st century, served as a gathering spot. iPhones, the tool of the modern traveler, were pointed for pictures. The littlest Vols — a band of coaches' kids including coach Cuonzo Martin's three children — grabbed a drink from a natural spring.

The sea of Tennessee orange, draped with an entourage of fans, alumni and athletic department personnel, made its way toward the mighty Colosseum. Their presence caught the eye of newlyweds Chaz and Ivie Hoffmann. The Nashville natives grabbed a picture alongside senior Kenny Hall and others for the honeymoon scrapbook. The diehard Tennessee fans were thrilled.

"Worked out pretty well," Chaz Hoffman said, "I wore this today because it was my last clean shirt."

The orange Vols football T-shirt surely turned out well in the picture.

Arriving at the Colosseum, heads arched upwards.

There's no use in describing the indescribable.

"Seeing the Colosseum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," junior Jordan McRae said.

"Being here is such a surreal feeling — just being able to retrace those steps that some people sometimes forget about it," said Miller, looking up toward the arched ceilings near the Colosseum entrance.

An hour later, Miller and the Vols could barely lift their heads for lunch. A lot had happened since the team bus pulled out of Knoxville on Sunday morning. Today will bring a trip to St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The first of their four games on the Italian tour comes Wednesday.

After all, this trip has two layers. With the pleasure, comes the business.

"As of right now, it doesn't even feel like we're even playing, but come tomorrow night, when it's time to get rest for that game, we'll know it's time to play," McRae said.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 18

easleychuck writes:

It is really good to know that the basketball program is in capable hands with Coach Martin at the helm.

CoverOrange writes:

Who is Nicodemus Christopher?

OrangeDew writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Who is Nicodemus Christopher?

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Classof72 writes:

"The sea of Tennessee orange, draped with an entourage of fans, alumni and athletic department personnel, made its way toward the mighty Collosseum."

Spell checker not working?

S/B "The Colosseum, or the Coliseum".

jobrando#216494 writes:

Dang, what a great experience for the team.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I would love going to Italy. PASTA!! Marinaro( not the NFL/actor guy). My sister went and actually sang for the pope. That was cool though neither of us are catholic. Do they have football in Italy? besides soccer?

I hope we get some learning done for the team!

Go Vols. Represent.

VolGrad writes:

Great beginning to a much anticipated journey. Now, let's kick some international butt.

Represent, guys. Go Vols!!!

AtopTheHill06 writes:

There was no mention of Maymon in the article and he wasnt in the photo. Is he on this trip?

BolivrBob writes:

Nascent? Bwahahahhaahaha......... Sounds like a great experience they will treasure and remember for a lifetime

CoverOrange writes:

in response to OrangeDew:

Strength and Conditioning Coach

He looks younger than the players.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Classof72:

"The sea of Tennessee orange, draped with an entourage of fans, alumni and athletic department personnel, made its way toward the mighty Collosseum."

Spell checker not working?

S/B "The Colosseum, or the Coliseum".

Not if you visit the Colosseum in Rome.

VictorKruger writes:

in response to AtopTheHill06:

There was no mention of Maymon in the article and he wasnt in the photo. Is he on this trip?

Take a look at the "Vols in Italy: Day 1" pictures on utsports.com; Maymon made it at least as far as the Atlanta airport :>).

AtopTheHill06 writes:

in response to VictorKruger:

Take a look at the "Vols in Italy: Day 1" pictures on utsports.com; Maymon made it at least as far as the Atlanta airport :>).

Thanks VK, lets hope he made it with the rest of the team. I picture coach Martin having a "Home Alone" moment. We left Jeronne!!

Basketvol writes:

I love that they are doing this trip, for so many reasons! Let's see if I can share these sentiments, spoof style, as others have done successfully before me.

NorthKnoxIndependent writes:
What a complete waste of time! How can an eye-opening cultural experience possibly help recruiting. "Once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities and "surreal" feelings aren't going to bring in the big recruits. After this year, when Bruce Pearl's recruit Jarnell Stokes leaves for the NBA, blah, blah, blah.

Can't do it anymore. . . tried to get into character but it felt too miserable.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to Basketvol:

I love that they are doing this trip, for so many reasons! Let's see if I can share these sentiments, spoof style, as others have done successfully before me.

NorthKnoxIndependent writes:
What a complete waste of time! How can an eye-opening cultural experience possibly help recruiting. "Once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities and "surreal" feelings aren't going to bring in the big recruits. After this year, when Bruce Pearl's recruit Jarnell Stokes leaves for the NBA, blah, blah, blah.

Can't do it anymore. . . tried to get into character but it felt too miserable.

Just who could you be spoofing? hahaha!

I hope you showered after that post!

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

I think this will make the guys greater off the court than on the court which is the most important to me.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I would love going to Italy. PASTA!! Marinaro( not the NFL/actor guy). My sister went and actually sang for the pope. That was cool though neither of us are catholic. Do they have football in Italy? besides soccer?

I hope we get some learning done for the team!

Go Vols. Represent.

several cities have American football, as they call it. They play at about the level of semi-pro ball and not many folks show up for the games--sometimes only a few hundred. I lived over there a while but didn't attend any games. John Grisham has a book about American football in Italy called, "Playing for Pizza." It's a pretty good read.

I'm glad our basketball team is making this visit to Italy for several reasons. First, it's good to see any part of Europe, but Italy is probably my favorite. Second, it's good to build team cohesion.

Third, international travel is a great, legal way to "pay" college players without actually paying them. But fourth and on a more selfish note, I'm glad to see the Vols get in all this extra practice before the actual practice time starts.

My left-handed comment: We'll be stronger out of the gate the first game, get better as the season progresses, and probably win the SEC tournament this year. Go Vols!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Hah! I'd play for Pizza...or a good calzone. I'd play for spaghetti...football that is. I'd play basketball for free!...which we all hope UT and others are doing.

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