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It's hard to believe we have been in Italy for a week and our time in this country is quickly coming to a close. Tuesday proved to be a rather long day, and we didn't reach the trip's final destination, Como, until well after three on Wednesday morning.
The day began with free time in Venice and a walking tour through the city. Most in the Irish party spent the morning doing some last-minute shopping. Venice qualifies as a shopper's paradise because there are so many different kinds options and certainly something for everyone.
After a final water taxi ride from the hotel to our tour bus, we headed an hour northeast of Venice to Vicenza, site of our final game versus the Vicenza All-Stars. Vicenza is one of the wealthiest cities in Italy, thanks in large part to its textile and steel industries that employ many of the residents. Vicenza is also well-known for its museums and art galleries. Additionally, about one-fifth of Italy's jewelry is made here.
We arrived in Vicenza around 3 p.m. and took a 15-minute tour to the center of town where there were many shops and restaurants. After a short stroll around the city centre, many of us enjoyed gelato, cookies or pastries. It was, once again, a very hot and humid day and many of the players sat under umbrellas to evade the sun.
There are a couple of little known but interesting facts about Vicenza that were noted by one of our tour guides, Rob. First, the city's population (estimated to be around 115,000) is comprised 25 percent of Americans who are stationed at a military base on the outskirts of the city. And, because of the Americans in the city, we were assured that there would be several hundred spectators at the game due to interest in seeing a team from the United States play.
Another fact pointed out to the group was that Andrea Palladio, a 16th-century architect, had a great influence on the "Palladine" style of architecture in Vicenza, throughout Europe and even in the United States. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was a great admirer of Palladio's distinctive style that is notably displayed at Jefferson's Monticello as well as buildings at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.
Following 90 minutes in the center of town, we headed to our pre-game meal and were treated once again to more salads, meats, pasta, pizza and breads than anyone could possibly eat (even for our players). It was a longer than normal meal and offered the chance for the entire traveling party to just sit and relax.
Then it was off to the game where many Italian and American children greeted us at the entrance to the gym--with many looking to take pictures with the players and offer high-fives. The arena was modern and comparable in terms of its newness to the one where we played the previous night in Jesolo. A high-tech video board posted many of the tweets Rick Peltz (a loyal Irish fan traveling with us) had been sending throughout the tour.
Head coach Mike Brey had an opportunity to visit and have his picture taken with four Americans--Tony Reese, Montrell Tennessee, Steven Graves and J Roundree--playing against the Irish in the upcoming game, and he also had time to visit with the Italian coach.
While the Irish once again dominated their opponent (winning 95-57), it did not deter the enthusiasm of the 700 or so American and Italian fans at the game. They cheered for their home team loudly, but also for many of the Zach Auguste and Austin Torres dunks. Music played throughout the game, giving the contest the feel of an NBA game. The fans (as they have for all four of our games) stayed until the end and after the game secured autographs and pictures with players and coaches. Senior forward Pat Connaughton conducted an interview with a local Italian journalist after the game amid the crowd on the court.
After the game players from both teams gathered on the court for a team picture. Notre Dame's team received a trophy for winning all four of its games on the tour, and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson was named MVP of the final game as he finished with 11 points, five assists and three steals.
Standing with his trophy, Jackson had a big smile on his face and was taking pictures with many of the young fans in attendance.
"When I get home, I am going to give this trophy to my mother," Jackson said. "This has been such a great trip for me and my teammates and has been an experience that I won't forget. I feel blessed. It's been about us improving as a team on the basketball court and getting to know each other off the court."
Inside the Irish locker room after the game, Brey emphasized the importance of this tour basketball-wise and the improvement his team made from the first to the last game as well as throughout the summer.
"We've got great momentum heading into the season," Brey said, in addressing his team. "I've liked the way that you have handled your business this summer both on the court and in the classroom. This is a group really trusting in each other, and we have a lot of positives and a lot to work with as we head into the season. I'm really excited about where we are right now."
Following a quick shower and a post-game meal of pasta, everyone boarded a bus for the three-hour drive to Como. A very tired and weary group arrived at our hotel a little after three in the morning. The temperatures appear to be much cooler in this region of Italy and will offer some respite after the heat and humidity of the last seven days.
A scheduled boat tour was cancelled for Wednesday because of rain so many will enjoy walking around the city of Como, a popular tourist stop on the shores of beautiful Lake Como.
Fino a domani (Until tomorrow).
Notre Dame 95, Vicenza All-Stars 57
August 12, 2014 Pala Goldoni (Vicenza, Italy)
Junior Zach Auguste continued his great play on the Irish tour as he recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds and Notre Dame defeated the Vicenza All-Stars 95-57. Freshman Bonzie Colson finished with 12 points, and sophomore Demetrius Jackson added 11 points as the Irish won their fourth and final game.
In addition to his 11 points, Jackson dished off five assists and made three steals. Senior Pat Connaughton finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman Martin Geben had eight points and rebounds.
For the fourth straight game, head coach Mike Brey started Auguste, Connaughton, Jackson, Jerian Grant and Steve Vasturia. That quintet played extremely well together to open the game as the Irish jumped out to a 23-9 first-quarter lead. As he has throughout the tournament, Brey was able to play lots of roster options and once again see a lot of different combinations on the court.
Notre Dame led 23-9 after one period, 50-28 after two and 79-43 after three quarters.
Head Coach Mike Brey
"I like how our older guys have helped our younger players get better on this trip. I was pleased with our intensity tonight. It was tough considering how hot the gym was and how long of a day it was for our players."
"This has been a great four games for us and a good start to the season. We've got some game film to watch to evaluate our team from here once we get back to campus and school starts. I'll certainly use all of these games as teaching points throughout our preseason."
Freshman Bonzie Colson
"With each game and practice, I continue to feel comfortable with our style of play and playing with the other players on the court. I'm still learning and adjusting to the system, but this trip has really helped me to learn more about my teammates both on and off the court."
Sophomore Demetrius Jackson
"I am very encouraged by how we have played these last four games. I think all of us have gained a great deal of confidence. We were tested by the weather and conditions here in Italy, but I think that everyone is pleased with how well we played. We know where we need to improve, but this trip has given us a great start to our season."
-- by Bernie Cafarelli, assistant athletics director