The University of Nebraska at Omaha basketball team wrapped up their summer with a trip to Milan, Italy. Besides sight-seeing and experiencing Italian culture, the team competed in four games against Italian professional teams. Head coach Derrin Hansen made sure that the trip wasn’t exclusively for player evaluation, but more about the cultural and educational experience and the opportunity for the players to bond. The team documented their journey with an online blog written by several players.
The Mavericks began their trip flying to Atlanta, then across the Atlantic Ocean on nine-hour flight to Milan. Upon arrival, the team prepped for their first day at the Piazza del Duomo.
“We were blown away by the architectural ingenuity and design of the Duomo,” senior guard Kyler Erickson said. “I have never seen anything quite like it.”
The team split up into two groups and toured local shops and restaurants. They had studied some Italian in their class sessions before the trip, making the language barrier not too difficult to overcome.
For the Mavs, it was a trip of firsts. Most of the team had never had gelato, Italian ice cream.
“Italian gelato may be the best thing I’ve ever tasted,” White said. “Every day that I have been in Italy I have eaten gelato at least twice.”
The team visited Lake Como during the second day, one of the wealthiest areas in the world, on a private boat tour. Freshman JT Gibson called it one of the most beautiful places he’d ever seen.
Randy Reed II said that many people recognized that they were foreign basketball players.
“They looked shocked at how tall most of us were,” senior forward Josh White said. “They told us to ‘show the Italians how real basketball is played,’” Reed II said.
Although the Mavs enjoyed soaking up the beauty of Italy, the team did have work to do. The Mavericks played a total of four games on the trip, winning all four and outscoring opponents 348-154. The most a team ever scored against the Mavericks was 43 points. Hansen subbed his players in waves, bringing new energy to the court as well as giving the younger players experience.
“It was nice to see everyone on the team get out there and feel a game-like atmosphere in an Omaha jersey,” Randy Reed II said. “I think it was crucial for the newcomers because they finally got the monkey off their back.”
Here is a quick game-by game recap of the trip.
In Game 1, Omaha squared off with All Star Varese, a team made up of 17 to 23 year old Italian professional players. The Mavericks were led by senior forward Jake White, junior guard Tra-Deon Hollins and senior guard Randy Reed who all scored in double figures. Other major contributors included senior Devin Patterson and sophomore Daniel Meyer who had nine points apiece. Freshman TJ Gibson shot well from behind the arc, finishing with nine as well. The Mavericks exploded with a 21 point run in the fourth quarter to win 85-43.
Omaha faced Stellarruzza in their second game, team comprised of 15-19 year old players recruited from Africa and Europe. Despite their youth, Hansen noted that many of Stellarruzza’s players could be future Olympians. Omaha again received significant contributions from Meyer and White who tallied 11 points each. Meyer was able to control the paint and attack the glass all game. Randy Reed came up with 8 points and Patterson followed with 7 on the night. The Mavericks stayed locked in on defense, going on to top Stellarruzza 75-39.
The Mavericks tallied their biggest victory of the trip in game 3 against Isernia, dominating 107-31. Omaha was led by 14 points from JT Gibson. Tra-Deon Hollins, Daniel Meyer, Devin Patterson, Randy Reed II and Jake White were all in double figures. The Mavericks were also helped by freshmen Zach Jackson and Zach Pirog who scored eight and six points, respectively. The team finished the game on a 14-0 run.
UNO wrapped up their journey with an 81-41 victory in Rome over Luiss University.
UNO trailed early in the game but went on several hot runs to overpower Luiss. Sophomore forwards Tre’Shawn Thurman and Daniel Meyer propelled the Mavs with 13 points apiece. Randy Reed II finished with 11, his third game in double figures.
UNO’s second leading scorer last season, senior guard Marcus Tyus did not see action in the trip to Italy while he rested a torn ACL. Tyus made the trip, but remained a sideline contributor during games, helping players on the bench. According to Hansen, Tyus will participate in non-contact drills in practice and will be ready to play come their first game in November.
The Mavericks returned to Omaha over the weekend, just in time for classes on August 24. For the team, this trip was a great experience both culturally and for their development as a team. “I am beyond thankful for the coaches, administrators, team supporters and athletic department as a whole that made this trip happen,” senior guard Kyler Erickson said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we will remember and cherish forever.”
Omaha basketball is a growing program that is ready to compete in its first year of Division I eligibility.
“This year has so much in store for our program, and we’re looking to make some major moves,” Randy Reed II said. “This trip is just the beginning.”