Men’s basketball travels to Italy

The men’s basketball team stands in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Photo courtesy of UTD Men's Basketball.

The men’s basketball team returned from an international trip to Italy, where it secured two victories in the process.

During the two-week trip, the team visited Rome, Florence and Venice. In Rome and Florence, the team played against Cantini Lorano and Santa Maria, two experienced European club teams, winning both games. The trip resulted from the hard work done by Director of Intercollegiate Athletics William Petitt and John Barden, a clinical professor at the School of Management, who pitched for the team’s trip to Italy.

“It was my eighteenth season here and it was something I always wanted to do,” said Terry Butterfield, the head coach of the men’s basketball team. “It seems surreal to do something like that, then next thing you know you’re on a plane bound for Italy.”

The NCAA allows international trips in every division every four years, allowing teams to experience the international ruleset. The international rules change the sport for the team in almost every way, including the type of ball that is used. Notable changes include how physically the game was played, as well as the relaxed attitudes the referees had towards fouls.

“It’s very physical, you can be driven to the ground with no call,” Butterfield said. “For the most part they managed to not get frustrated, and things we would get called on over here didn’t over there, so we powered through it.”

The team first faced off against Santa Maria in Rome, in which the team managed an early lead of 12 by halftime despite the use of international rules. Every player on the team scored once, and seven finished with nine or more points. The high points came from sophomore forward Michael Forester and junior guard Xavier Ferrell, who both had scoring averages above 2.0 in this season, managing to score 12 points each. The team managed to knock the lead up to 23 mid-way through the third quarter, winning 84-57 in their Italian debut.

“It was fun to get acclimated to the European way of things, especially since it gave us a win,” Ferrell said. “It’s interesting playing against a team that wasn’t even speaking the same language.”

The team started off slow in their final game against Cantini Lorano in Florence. Notable performances include junior guard Curtis Allen who had a game-high of 16 points after scoring four from downtown. Other players, including Ferrell, junior forward Hans Burwitz and junior guard Dimitrius Underwood, who had a scoring average of 19.0 this season, also managed to score in the double digits. The team came back in the fourth quarter after being down by seven to win 67-56.

“(I) think the team came in a little sluggish from the trip,” Allen said. “Physically they were rough games. At one point one of our guys got pushed straight down to the floor.”

The team came back to the United States on May 21 and will not meet again until the season starts in the fall.

“It’s an incredible cultural and bonding experience,” said Jared Fleming, the team’s assistant coach. “For most of these guys, it’s a once in a lifetime.”

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