The University of Tennessee basketball departed Wednesday, August 8, for an 11-day tour of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria. The Vols left Stokely Athletic Center shortly after noon for Atlanta where they will take a nine-hour, 25 minute flight to Prague.
The NCAA allowed the Vols 10 practice sessions in preparation for the overseas trip. UT began preparing for the trip on August 1 and concluded their final practice session Wednesday morning before departing. The practice sessions allowed third-year head coach Bruce Pearl to experiment with using players at different positions than they have been used to.
"We've got guys playing different positions," Pearl said. "Chris Lofton is playing some point in addition to two guard. Everybody is playing different positions. There are a lot of new roles and positions. It is still the same system but, the personnel are playing different positions."
This is Tennessee's third trip to the European continent. In December 1976 the Vols played three games in Madrid, Spain, and then in August 1997 UT played nine games in France and Italy. This is the first international trip for the Vols since October 2003 when they visited the Dominican Republic.
The Vols will have to adjust to FIBA rules, which are somewhat different than what they are used to in NCAA play. Instead of two 20-minute halves, the game will be divided into four, 10-minute periods. In addition to playing with a slightly larger and more slippery ball, the playing court will also have a different layout. The lane is a trapezoid (19-feet, 8-inches on the baseline and 11-feet, 10-inches at the foul line) in international play while in NCAA competition it is a 12-foot by 19-foot rectangle. The 3-point line will also provide a significant change. The line moves back from the 19-foot, 9-inches in NCAA competition to 20-feet, 6-inches according to FIBA rules.
Upon arrival in the Czech Republic's capital city Thursday morning, the team will enjoy a two-hour sightseeing tour of Prague as they try to adjust to the six hour time difference.
"I am looking forward to seeing a new country, to see new people and to experience their way of life" sophomore guard Ramar Smith said. "From everything I have read about the places were are going to visit, it looks like a beautiful place to go."
On Friday, August 10, UT tours Prague Castle before hitting the court for the first time when they meet BK Sadska in nearby Podebrady.
Tennessee will take a boat tour on the Vltava River around Prague before playing BK Kolin Saturday evening. A member of the Czech Republic's Division 2 league, Kolin recently won its division title with a 23-3 overall record.
The team will have the opportunity to see the local sites on Sunday and Monday. Included in the sites that the Vols will visit is a World War II Nazi concentration camp. Located about 40 miles from downtown Prague, Terezin was a fortress and prison city prior to 1940 when the Gestapo took control.
Tuesday, August 14, the team will make the 215-mile trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, where they will meet BK Nitra for the third game of their five-game trip. BK Nitra recently finished third with a 22-14 record in Slovakia's Extraliga standings, the country's top league. The following night, the Vols are scheduled to play Pezinok BBC, a club that posted a 12-0 record in the Western Division of the country's League One.
After traveling to Vienna, Austria, Thursday morning, the Vols will have a chance to spend time at Prater, an amusement park laid out on the meadowland bordering the Danube River. One of the city's main landmarks, a giant ferris wheel is located at this park.
The Vols will play their final game against Klosterneuberg on Friday, August 17. But, before hitting the court for the final time, the team will go on a guided tour of Vienna which will include a stop at St. Stephen's Cathedral, a13th century building that is considered one of the finest gothic architecture in the country.
Tennessee will have Saturday, August 18, to tour Vienna before leaving Sunday morning. The Vols will enjoy an 11-hour flight back to Atlanta and will arrive back in Knoxville late Sunday night.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information