Josh Richardson's education continued in Poland and Germany earlier this month. The Tennessee sophomore combo-guard joined Athletes in Action for a six-game exhibition tour.
Beyond the standard cultural contrasts, Richardson learned two vital lessons.
One, gnocchi is his new favorite food.
Two, European basketball has more to offer than exposure to new cuisine.
"The competition was a lot better than I thought it was going to be," Richardson said Monday night before scoring 32 points for R. Larry Smith Insurance in a 124-121 overtime loss to DeRoyal Industries in the Pilot Rocky Top League. "It was deceptive."
Contributing to a perfect 6-0 run overseas, Richardson appreciated the nuances of European basketball.
Every opponent was physically punishing. Teams spread the floor with jump shooters. Multiple ball screens were set at halfcourt before teams went into offensive sets.
It took some time, but the product grew on Richardson.
"All those European players in the (NBA) seem to be doing pretty well," said the Oklahoma native. "I figure it's a style maybe I can pick up. It can help my game. It's another brand."
Richardson's brand led to 34 appearances as a UT freshman, including nine starts. He averaged 2.9 points and 1.4 assists in 16.0 minutes per game. Most importantly, he was a disruptive ballhawk on defense.
"I'm still growing," he acknowledged, "but I've gotten a lot more mature."
On Monday, Richardson aided a 10-0 opening spurt by R. Larry Smith with a driving transition dunk, a backdoor alley-oop and a pull-up 3-pointer.
He finished with five made 3-pointers and a handful of midrange jumpers. That's good news for UT fans. Richardson's perimeter jumper is improving. The elbow stays in. The release is held at the top.
"I need a more consistent jump shot — that's the biggest thing," said Richardson, who's averaging 24.3 points per game through three Rocky Top League contests.
If he does, more minutes in UT coach Cuonzo Martin's rotation might follow.
The 6-foot-6 guard played at the two and three positions last year and even logged some minutes at the four. He said Monday that with an improved handle, he could even slide into the point guard slot.
Richardson began the summer having never left the country. Then he went to Poland and Germany. Now he'll travel with the Vols to Italy for four games in August.
Suddenly he's a worldly traveler.
So is his game. And his appetite.
"Now I'm not as nervous to be traveling and I think I've got a leg-up in Italy because I know how to play over there," Richardson said. "Plus I know the dos and don'ts of food."
In other games:
News Sentinel 123, Campus Lights 94: UT's Yemi Makanjoula powered News Sentinel with 27 points on 12-of-21 shooting, while fellow Vol Brandon Lopez added 21. UT freshman Derek Reese scored 18 for Campus Lights.
Choice Spine 116, Rice Buick GMC 113: Choice Spine outgunned Rice thanks to UT's Jordan McRae (33) and Quinton Chievous (16). Galen Campbell scored a game-high 34 for Rice, while Ricky Taylor and UT's Rob Murphy scored 32 and 30, respectively.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn