Women’s Basketball learned plenty about themselves, local culture on trip to Italy
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There’s something special about traveling abroad, and especially Italy. There’s so much history to see, such rich culture to experience, not to mention the challenge of a completely different language.
The Georgia Tech women’s basketball team just found out how special such a trip can be, recently returning from a 13-day trip to Italy.
“A foreign tour is an educational experience on so many levels,” said head coach MaChelle Joseph. “It’s an opportunity for young people to see a different part of the world, to grow together. The camaraderie and the experience they had just interacting for that long period of time in a foreign country was major for our chemistry and building our brand going into the season as far as what kind of team we want to be.”
“I think the thing that was so special was the fact that Antonia Peresson and Francesca Pan had the opportunity to show their home country. Antonia got to show her hometown to her teammates,” said Joseph. “I think it’s one thing for them to come over here and live in our country and experience our culture. But for them to be able to take us to their culture and their home and get the opportunity to watch our kids interact and see the different things that they never thought they would see in a lifetime actually was the most rewarding part for me.”
The trip saw plenty life-changing experiences for the non-Italians on Joseph’s diverse roster, which includes players from three different nations besides Italy -- the United States, Senegal and Nigeria.
“The trip was definitely an experience to remember,” said sophomore guard and Charlotte, N.C., native Chanin Scott. “I haven’t traveled abroad so it was pretty cool to see the culture.”
Scott excitedly ticked off a checklist of things that were part of Italian culture that had been completely foreign to her.
Among them were things as simple as getting ice at restaurants.
“Ice wasn’t very common,” she said. “It wasn’t something that was given to you like in the restaurants here in America. You had to ask for it and even when you asked for it they might say they didn’t have any.
“Another cultural aspect, they drink a lot of frizzy water,” she added, referring to aqua gassata, the carbonated water native Italians prefer to aqua naturale, regular tap water. “If you ask for water they give you frizzy water instead of plain, natural water. I just like natural water, so it was kind of bad because everyone would drink up all the natural water and all that was left would be frizzy water so you had to wait for them to bring out more.”
Scott had mixed feelings on the lodging.
“In the hotel their beds are really small and they’re really close. They’re practically touching,” she said. “In the U.S. we have a full-sized bed with a lot of space in between. So it was kind of funny to see that.”
She was more positive about their efficiency with energy usage.
“A lot of the hotels were energy-saving hotels,” she said. “You had to insert your room key to use the lights, stuff like that. I thought that was very efficient. We need to jump on that back here.”
Chanin also was impressed by the different modes of transportation -- all of which the Jackets put to use at some point.
“We traveled by bus, airplane, train, boat, walked a LOT,” she said. “That was pretty cool to do all that traveling.”
Scott admitted that the local weather actually was hotter than she expected, but she was prepared, going to school in Atlanta and growing up in Charlotte.
On the court, the Jackets were as hot as the weather in the four games they played. Tech went 4-0, winning their four games by 70, 78, 41 and 19.
“I was extremely pleased,” said Joseph. “The things we did defensively, offensively, the fact that I got to play almost everybody double-figure minutes in every game, was just a huge advantage.”
Joseph got to give other two-guards a look, as Pan played sparingly. She’d sprained her ankle at the U20s in Portugal a month earlier and was rested as a precaution.
“(Pan’s rest) gave the other players an opportunity to show what they could do in certain situations,” said Joseph. “I was really pleased that I got a chance to see our freshmen in a competitive situation in August. You don’t really get to see them until the first game in November, so it’s definitely a huge advantage.”
Tech’s first two games were against the Bosnian U19 team Orlovi Banja Luka. The Jackets cruised, 101-31 and 96-18. They then topped Slovenia, 81-40, and concluded the slate by beating Slovenian professional team Celje Slovenia, 60-41.
The final game was especially significant for Scott, as the Jackets trailed 25-21 at the break.
“I think our last game, was a very defining moment for us,” said Scott, the team’s leading scorer in the second game with 17 points. “We were down at halftime by four points and there were a lot of games last year where we lost by one point, two points. But this game, we just pulled our pants up and came back.”
Making that game even more interesting is that a couple of days after, Celje Slovenia beat Connecticut, 79-59.
The star of the show for the Jackets was Peresson, as she was on display in her hometown of Pordenone, which hosted the first three games -- the finale was played in Venice.
The senior sharpshooter showed her home folks the form fans in Atlanta have grown accustomed to over her first three years. She scored a team-high 16 in the opener, hitting four three-pointers, added 13 in the third game with three more triples and chipped in 11 in the finale, hitting a huge three as part of an 8-0 burst that opened the fourth quarter and opened up an insurmountable lead for Tech.
Going 4-0 was nice and seeing Peresson star made the wins even sweeter.
“She had a great experience,” said Joseph. “I think just getting to play in front of her family and friends was really important.”
“We were really getting her some good wide open shots and she was delivering by knocking them down,” said Scott. “That was pretty cool because after every game she had family friends, and neighbors, people that she knew that came to the game. After games they all wanted to take pictures with us. They were very excited. ‘Oh, could you sign my shirt?’ ‘Sign this.’”
Scott said the team received that kind of attention the entire trip.
“I did notice that a lot of people were staring at us and trying to discreetly take pictures,” she said, with a laugh. “They were asking us questions about basketball and college and how we liked Italy, which was pretty cool.”
Chanin admitted she could get used to the star treatment and would like to go back to Italy. She even took small steps in breaking down the language barrier.
“I learned a lot of words on the trip. Like ‘please’ is ‘Per favore,’ ‘thank you’ is ‘grazie’ and ‘you’re welcome’ is, ‘prego,’” she said. “I definitely would like to go back. I really, really liked it. I would like to go there in the summers and stay there for summers.”
Joseph feels the results of the trip showed the team is on the right track to where she wants it to go.
“The fact that we got to play four games and practice before we went, it just feels like we’re game-ready,” she said. “It’s August and we’re ready to play a game. We’re excited about this team this year and that trip just solidified the things I felt were going to happen with this new freshman class we have. Then with the returning of 90 percent of our scoring and rebounding, it’s an exciting time for our program.”