A subtle grin crept across the faces of members of the men’s basketball team as sophomore forward John Kopriva introduced himself to their audience, the last of the Colonials to conclude his remarks.
“One of the things the we wanted to bring to Italy with us was our fight song,” Kopriva said, stepping forward. “And so we learned it in Italian.”
Gathered in the spacious glass-domed lobby of the Italian Embassy, the crowd chuckled as the team chanted GW’s fight song in Italian without missing a beat.
The event marked a farewell to the Colonials, who will depart Wednesday for a summer tour of Italy, playing five exhibition games against professional Italian competition before returning Aug. 26.
“I have to admit, when they said they were going to do that I really was nervous. But actually, you guys weren’t that bad,” athletic director Patrick Nero said. “But we don’t need to sing that everywhere we go next week.”
Head coach Mike Lonergan will lead the men’s basketball team on the international tour, GW’s first since 2005.
The games will take place in Rome, Siena, Pisa, Ticino. The Colonials will also visit historical sites like the Roman Colosseum and perform community service at military bases with American soldiers.
The reception also offered the first look at Lonergan’s recruiting class with his returning squad for the first time, after their first month training together.
Along with the 10 practices before an international tour, changes in NCAA rules this year allowed all 13 players up to two hours of extra on-court practice in exchange for registering in a summer course. The Colonials also took part in a three-day Italian history and culture seminar with professor Diane Cline in preparation for the trip.
The added time with the team has been notably beneficial, Lonergan said. Last year – his first season as head coach – he could not take to the court with the new team until September.
“These practices have been great. Getting to see the returning players play with some of the new guys, they’re building team chemistry,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I think this trip will help us in many ways.”
Kopriva agreed that summer practices have made the team “stronger than ever and ready to work.” The coaching staff and team have focused on building up skills and welcoming freshman.
“One of the biggest things that helped me last year was a senior like Jabari Edwards taking me under his wing,” Kopriva said.
Freshman guard Patricio Garino said the eight upperclassmen have mentored the freshmen during drills at the Smith Center and off the court. He said he’s felt like “this is the team to be on” since day one.
“Everyday we wake up and see each other at six o’clock in the morning. There’s a lot of bonding. Outside the gym and the weight room, we hang out and play video games together,” senior guard Bryan Bynes said.
Along with historical visits, the team’s itinerary includes a Vespa trip through Rome and a tour of a Ferrari car factory.
The Colonials will leave Wednesday from Dulles International Airport for Rome, where they will spend four days. The tour will conclude in the Italian Lakes Region, where GW will play their fifth and final game near Cernobbio.
This post was updated Aug. 10, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the team was enrolled in a six-credit Italian history and culture course. In fact, the players did not receive credit for the seminar.