Coach Bruce Pearl Reflects On European Excursion

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(WVLT) - A ten-day vacation doesn't tend to last very long, especially when you're romping through Europe.

But the lessons the Tennessee men's basketball team learned from their three-country European tour will last much longer.

The Vols played five games against teams from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria, winning four. But even more instrumental than the on-court experience was opportunity the Vols had to immerse themselves in an entirely different environment.

"They walked and they toured and they asked questions," Coach Bruce Pearl said Monday. "I think they got a feel for the culture and the different people, and they went together -- rarely did you see one without seeing half a dozen."

Not that there was much alone time built into the schedule. To ensure that the Vols maximized their cultural experience, Pearl enlisted the services of UT History Professor David Tompkins. Tompkins took the Vols to Prague Castle, where they posed for pictures with palace guards; on a scavenger hunt through Prague, where the Vols paired off and explored the city; and to the Terezin concentration camp, a World War II ghetto where the Germans detained Jews before sending many of them to death camps.

"It's really too emotional for me to talk about," Pearl said of the camp. "I'm glad the players got to see that. It's real, it happened, and we need to continue to remind ourselves that it can never happen again. Some good people made some bad decisions, and hopefully my players learned that even if it's not popular, stand up and do the right thing."

If the Vols' legs were tired from all the traveling, they didn't let on. Pearl's squad averaged 107 points per game against some of the toughest competition Central Europe could offer. The team boasted four different leading scorers in its five games, with Wayne Chism ending the trip in a 28-point, 15-rebound crescendo in a 104-75 win against BK Klosterneuberg, an Austrian all-star team.

"Wayne's game is maturing," Pearl said. "You don't see enough consistency like you would from an upperclassman, but freshmen are now sophomores."

Due to NCAA rules, the Volunteers were unable to bring along their four newcomers -- freshmen Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum and transfers Tyler Smith and J.P. Prince. Pearl said the team will conduct its practice regimen as if the Europe trip had not taken place, in order to put the newcomers in a position to succeed.

The Vols who made the trip now find themselves in a rather quick adjustment back to the daily grind. Classes start Wednesday, and Pearl said he intended to give his players a chance to acclimate themselves to the new school year before starting individual workouts.

"The first three days we'll leave them be and let them get completely indoctrinated academically and socially, and then we'll go from there," Pearl said.

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