In three days, the University of Nevada men's basketball team will depart for a 10-day trip to Italy for a little education and a little basketball.
The Pack will take all of their returning players plus Jermaine Washington, who just completed his eligibility. Kevinn Pinkney also was invited on the trip, but declined for personal reasons.
Nevada will play five games - May 21, 22, 24, 26 and 28 - before returning to Reno on May 29. All five games will be against club teams. George Basta, a Reno businessman who died in 2003, made significant contributions to get the trip started.
Most of the players are looking forward to the trip, and only reserve guard Seth Taylor has ever been to Europe. He went between his freshman and sophomore year in high school.
"We'll get to see stuff that none of us have ever seen before except in books," said guard Kyle Shiloh, who admitted he was looking forward to seeing the Roman Colosseum. "It will be great to see where they fought all the battles."
"I'm looking forward to it," reserve center Chad Bell said. "We'll get a chance to see what it's like."
Nick Fazekas, the returning WAC Player of the Year, didn't like his last trip abroad. He toured with the NIT Preseason All-Star squad last summer and didn't enjoy himself. He admits this trip should be different.
The 6-11 forward said he's most anxious to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum.
"I hated the food," Fazekas said. "The food there will be OK to eat. Also, I was with people I didn't really know, and I hung around by myself usually. This will be different. I will be with 20 people that I know and get along with."
The players have been going to classes to learn about Italy's history, how to speak the language so they can hopefully converse with the local people. They are also learning about Italian food with the hopes they will be able to order off a menu correctly.
Coach Mark Fox said the trip is about basketball, too, and he will play to win.
"When you put on the uniform you play to win," Fox said. "We want to see guys that didn't get to experience it (playing) last year."
Fox was referring to forward-guard Marcelus Kemp, who tore an ACL last summer and sat out last season. Also, it will the Pack's first look competitively at Lyndale Burleson, who didn't play last year after failing to be cleared by the NCAA.
"Lyndale needs to play," Fox said. "Marcelus needs to play again. He's cleared. His knee is 100 percent, but his body isn't which can be expected. His jump shot looks good. David (Ellis) needs to get more experience."
SCHEDULE WOES AT NEVADA
One of coach Fox's biggest frustrations since he took over as head basketball coach has been his inability to get teams to come to Lawlor Events Center.
All the trouble started two seasons ago when Nevada shocked Kansas, beating the heavily favored Jayhawks by 20 points before a near-sellout crowd. The Pack went unbeaten at home that year, and ever since have had problems getting teams to come to Reno.
"I'd like to have name teams come here," Fox said Monday afternoon. "We won't do a 2-for-1 (one home, two away games)."
Nevada did a 2-for-1 with Kansas, and that contract runs out at the end of the current season.
Fox said Nevada has explored all conferences - major and mid-major - in an effort to get an attractive home schedule.
"We thought we had a neutral-court game in Denver, but that fell through," Fox said. "When we talk to some teams, they don't want to start a (home and home) series on the road. We have to get a home game. Most of our nonconference games will be on the road this year."
That's not really a bad thing. Road wins weigh more heavily in the revamped NCAA tournament format and home losses are more costly. Nevada went undefeated on the road in WAC play last year, going 9-0.
SOCCER RECRUITING RECOGNIZED
Nevada's soccer recruiting class was ranked in the top 20 in the west by Soccer Buzz Magazine, a publication that covers NCAA soccer.
Second-year coach Teri Patraw's class was ranked 19th and was tops in the Western Athletic Conference. Fresno State was ranked 23rd and Hawai'i was 26th.
Patraw signed eight high-school players, her first recruiting class. The recruiting class was already in place when she was named head coach.
TWO GRID COACHES FOR 'DOGS
Keep an eye on the Louisiana Tech football coaching situation. Jack Bicknell is in the final year of his contract, and there are already rumors swirling that he won't be retained.
Already he has lost two coaches heading into fall practice, and that's not a good situation.
John Lovett, the defensive coordinator, left to take the same position at Bowling Green.
The second Bulldog defection was Chris Vaszily, the special teams-tight end coach, who left for a scouting position with the Atlanta Falcons.
Bicknell recently appointed inside linebacker coach Randy Bates to that post.
n Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281