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Little Rock Trojans Start Season Early with Foreign Tour of Italy

Men's basketball players Creed Williamson, right, and Makhel Mitchell, left, attend practice in the Jack Stephens Center at UA Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain.

The Little Rock Trojans men’s basketball team will get a head start to the 2023-24 season as they depart for a foreign tour of Italy on Aug. 7.

During the 11-day tour, the basketball players and coaching staff will visit Rome, Florence, Venice, and Lake Como. They will play three international exhibition games at Rome on Aug. 10, Venice on Aug. 14, and Lake Como on Aug. 16 before returning to Little Rock on Aug. 17.

“We are thrilled to be able to have this opportunity to take our team and staff over to Italy this year for a foreign trip,” Head Coach Darrell Walker said. “With so many new faces, this will be great for our guys to be able to get more comfortable with each other’s games throughout the 10 extra practices that are allowed and the three games.”

NCAA rules allow a team taking a foreign tour to hold 10 days of practices on campus before leaving for the tour. The Little Rock Trojans are welcoming 10 talented newcomers to this year’s squad, and the foreign tour will give them a chance to grow as a team.

“This tour provides top competition, and I’m excited to see how our guys respond playing against some older, more experienced players,” Walker added. “It’s also an opportunity for our guys and our staff to get to spend some quality time together off the court, and we’re just excited about who we’ve brought in and can’t wait for our fans to see it this year.”

In addition to the opportunity to play against international opponents, the basketball players will experience the culture and sites of Italy. In Rome, they will visit historic sites including the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Roman Colosseum.

Additional tour stops will include a guided city tour of Florence, a guided bike tour of Bologna, a guided tour and gondola ride in Venice, a food tasting and cooking class in Verona, as well as a boat tour from Lake Como to Bellagio.

The trip will be a familiar experience for Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Julius Hodge, who previously played in Italy with the Italian Serie A teams Cimberio Varese and Legea Scafati.

“The differences are vast,” Hodge said. “In Italy, you have to put the ball on the ground first before you move, but our guys will adjust quickly. The basketball is also smaller and a little bit firmer than basketballs in the U.S. Playing in a foreign country helps the team gain international experience. Every time I’ve been on a trip like this, I’ve seen the players bond in a way that wasn’t possible before.”