The Columbia men's basketball team embarked on a 12-day, five-game trip to Spain and Italy on Monday, May 28. Different individuals will provide reports for during the trip. The latest blog entries are below:

Sunday, June 10

After returning back to the United States, rising sophomores Chris Fitzgerald and Alex Rosenberg gave their take on the trip.

Chris Fitzgerald:

Going to Europe with my teammates, coaches and friends was unbelievable. I knew that going to Spain and Italy for my first time was a privilege and would be fun, but it was the best trip I've ever been on. From seeing The Vatican and all the amazing sites, to going 5-0 against good competition, none of us could have asked for anything more.

It is easy for me to say which day was my favorite on the trip, but every day was unforgettable. When we visited Stiges, a beach town about an hour train ride from Barcelona, I had a blast. The Mediterranean was crystal clear, a little cold, and very salty but the most fun I've had at a beach ever. It was our only true day of downtime for the whole trip and we all enjoyed the views of the sea and mountains, food and company of each other.

Vatican City, Venice, Barcelona, Tuscany, San Ginminana, Flavio (our tour guide), Rome, Lake Como, Milan, the Colisseum, are you kidding me? Every one of these places took my breath away and will forever be etched into my memory as the coolest places I've seen so far in my life.

One more thing that meant a lot to me was getting back on the floor with my teammates. As a transfer I have not had the opportunity to compete with all of my great teammates before and it was more than I could have asked for. I felt welcomed and am lucky to be under the tutelage of such a great coaching staff. I'm excited for all things to come with Columbia.

Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible, I will never forget it.

Alex Rosenberg:

Once we departed Venice after a brief visit, which was more than enough, our instructor told us we had a five-hour bus ride to the next location, Lake Como. Personally, I had never heard of Lake Como but after seeing the majority of Italy so far, I never imagined it would get more amazing than it already is. The common phrase, "save the best for last" was put into immediate effect here once my eyes were completely opened from when we began our descent down the mountains overlooking the lake to when we took the hydrofoil for a short expedition to our hotel.

On our last day we traveled to Milan, a city I especially looked forward to because my grandfather spent his childhood there. The highlight of the day was definitely having a chance to visit The Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. It was a privilege to be able to view the quickly disintegrating painting by one of the most famous artists in history. Then again, the shopping that we did after that in downtown Milan was definitely a great time. I'm pretty sure just about everyone bought something. Later we finished off the trip with a great performance against another good team, arguably the best on this trip. After these five games, I have come to realize how good our team could be and a lot of it has to do with how close we are and this trip allowed for the bonding to occur.

It seemed as if every day was a new adventure and it was only going to get better. We were exploring new historical monuments and artifacts but all the while with my teammates whom over these 12 days have gotten closer. Disregard "teammates." At this point we're brothers, a family that is able to make the most of our time together, keeping in mind that this upcoming year we have an opportunity to do something very special. We finished this trip 5-0, and every member contributed immensely. Despite all of the touring and constantly being on the move, we were able to keep our main focus of the trip which was to have fun and grow as a team.

Friday, June 8

On the final day of the Lions' European tour, Columbia won 76-65 over Cantu, located outside of Milan. It was a tough game as Cantu is a well coached team that competed very hard. They got out to a lead early but the Lions pulled ahead by five going into halftime. Dalen Cuff '06 spoke with head coach Kyle Smith after the game about the team's response to a tough start and their 5-0 record on this trip.

Thursday, June 7

Rising sophomore Skylar Scrivano checks in from Florence, Italy:

We arrived by train in Firenze on Tuesday from the small town of Montecatini, which is located about 40 minutes away. After walking the streets and admiring the architecture and culture of this old city, we explored the artwork of the famous artist Michelangelo. In our tour, we learned that Firenze was a town financially powered by bankers and money changers. This was evident, as much of the richly decorated buildings belonged to wealthy bankers. Also, the influence of the Catholic religion is prevalent in the city's overall culture.

The team witnessed art history as we walked through the progression of many of Michelangelo's statues in the Accademia Gallery, culminating with an observation of the statue David. The trip to Firenze was both eye opening and enjoyable for the Lions.

Classmate Cory Osetkowski wrote about the team's trip to Venice:

Venice was one of the most spectacular places I have ever been. It was one of the most beautiful, if not THE most beautiful place I have ever been.

The one thing that was so amazing was the water travel. I did not see one car when we were there. The way everyone traveled was by boat. With the team, we took a tour of the city as well as a gondola ride for 15 minutes. On the gondola ride, it was easy to tell why Venice is known for these romantic gondola rides and attracts couples from all over the world. The ride was so peaceful and you were able to see the city from a different perspective. Venice is the most unique place on the planet.

The team visited the town of Bellagio on Lake Como early on Thursday and arrived in the afternoon at the town of Como. The Lions will be staying in Como the last two nights of the trip as they prepare for their final game on Friday night. Lake Como is breathtaking and head coach Kyle Smith provided his thoughts on this unique area.

Wednesday, June 6

Dalen Cuff '06:

The Lions are 4-0 on their European tour after a 81-41 win over Computer Gross Empoli, a Serie B team located outside Florence. The Lions had a slow start and seemed to show some signs of fatigue as the travel, city touring along with the games are starting to catch up to the players. But they turned it on in the second quarter and were led by Brian Barbour's 21 points in the first half. In the third quarter, they took over the game holding Empoli to only four points in the quarter. Here are head coach Kyle Smith's thoughts after the game:

Tuesday, June 5

Rising senior Mark Cisco wrote about his time with the Columbia team in Rome and on the trip so far:

Seeing the Colosseum was a highlight of our trip so far. With the thousands of years of history that can be traced back to it and Rome, it is astounding. So many things that we have read about in ancient history that we actually got to see in person - they are moments that we will never forget.

Barcelona and Stiges, Spain were phenomenal. The culture is so rich there, yet so laid back. We got to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, which was crystal clear and fantastic. It was only about 77 degrees, but the sun was perfect and the water was relatively warm. Another highlight. I am so glad we got to do this tour together. The basketball, history and sights have been fantastic.

Rising senior John Daniels shared his thoughts:

The Vatican Museum and Museo Academia were amazing. The Vatican Museum also houses the Sistine Chapel, in additional to thousands of other works. They actually have them divided into galleries by subject matter. We took a two and a half hour tour and barely skimmed all the galleries. You don't expect the Sistine Chapel to be that grand. It actually is overwhelming.

The statue of David is in the Museo Academia in Florence. We saw the Duomo and then went on a walking tour of Florence, ending at the David gallery. You almost expect the David to be six feet tall  but it's huge. I never expected that.

Regardless of how much we read, nothing quite prepared us for seeing the landmarks and experiencing the culture first-hand. We are fortunate to be able to do that.

Monday, June 4

The Lions arrived in Rome on Saturday from Barcelona for the second leg of their European tour. The team had the great pleasure of exploring so much of Rome's rich history and culture over the weekend. We toured Vatican City, the Colloseum, Imperial Rome, the Trevi Fountain and many of the amazing piazzas containing fantastic sculptures.

Rising senior Brian Barbour reflected on the time spent in Rome:

"We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to experience Europe as a team. There is so much history in Rome. All of us continually ask questions of our tour guides, who have been extremely knowledgeable. The Colosseum was one of the things the entire team was excited about. As we did a two-hour walking tour, I couldn't get out of my mind the fact that 80 percent of this enormous structure is missing."

"We did a walking tour of random sites of Imperial Rome. Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon and the catacombs were amazing in person. We got to see so many aspects of how ancient Rome has influenced today's culture. The Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel are two things I know most of us will never forget. We have heard about them in a variety of different classes, all throughout our education. I was here as a child, but this time is very different. Coming back to Rome as an adult, with the benefit of my Columbia education and with my best friends, my teammates, makes this a once in a lifetime experience."

The Lions moved to 3-0 after an 81-67 win over Stella Azzurra, a Serie B team on the outskirts of Rome. Stella Azzurra is a tough and talented team comparable to any good NEC, MAAC or America East conference team. We are on the bus early Monday morning in route to Florence where Dalen Cuff '06 caught up with Kyle Smith on our stop in Rome.

On our guided tours in Rome:

"it's almost shocking how much history there is in Rome and how much Rome shaped our current culture and world. Vatican City was astounding in the amount of amazing artwork, sculptures and artifacts they've accumulated over the years. I think all of us were in awe of the Sistine Chapel. The size and scope of the project is one thing, then you see the level of skill and detail. As impressive as the Vatican was and all we saw walking around, I think the guys liked the Colosseum the most. The athletic nature of what took place there really grabbed the guys. Our guide was unbelievable and provided so much info about how the gladiators fought and prepared. And the venue itself is just so absurd for their time and even now. It was just such a fun and unique experience for all of us."

On the win over Stella Azzurra:

I was excited about this game. They are a good Serie B team with some older, strong veteran players.  Both teams got after it from the tip, competed hard and it got a little chippy. We also were on the road in a difficult environment and our guys played tough. It was a very good win. Our third quarter was the difference. I wanted them to step it up coming out of the half and they did. We outscored them by 16 in the third. Our 2-3 zone gets markedly better every game. Rosenberg is getting really good in the zone. Offensively we shared the ball well. Frankoski has shot it so well and I think had six or seven threes. Cisco continues to be a force and Barbour ran the show. They threw all types of different defenses at us - zones, man and various presses - and we handled them well. I'm pleased with our progress and really excited to take on another Serie B team next game - Computer Gross Empoli, located outside of Florence.  

Saturday, June 2

The Columbia men's basketball team couldn't have asked for a better start to their European tour. We are about to leave one of the greatest cities in the world with some fantastic memories and a 2-0 record.

Rising senior Dean Kowalski shared his thoughts on Barcelona:

"It is difficult to point to one aspect of the Barcelona portion of our trip, and single it out. It has been amazing. If I had to pick one thing that surprised me the most, I would say the actual structure of the Sagrada Familia Church, designed by Antoni Gaudi, was one of the most impressive aspects of the trip so far. Our tour guide said that it was made to look like a something carved out of sand and it looked exactly like that. Inside was something from another world. The stained glass and curved staircases carved of marble were almost unbelievable.

"Having taken Art Hum (Art Humanities), it influences the way you see these works of art up close.  We saw structures by Gaudi and paintings by Dali in person. In class, we see things on a screen or in a book for a limited amount of time, but up close we remember what we learned in class and apply it to the experience of seeing it live. We are looking for things others might not imagine. It is really helpful and makes a big difference. I've never been to Europe before. This is a totally new experience and it has already been something I will never forget."

After defeating the Andorra national team 86-83, the Lions followed that up with an 83-45 win over Club Esportiu Laieta, a Barcelona club team. Dalen Cuff '06 had a chance to chat with Kyle Smith about his thoughts on the first leg of the trip.

On Barcelona:

"It's just an amazing city that has so much to offer. Barcelona has so much character in its architecture. A lot of that look and feel was influenced by Antoni Gaudï and we had the opportunity to experience a number of his works from the Sagrada Familia, a famous church still under construction, Casa Battló, the Park Gruell and many others. In addition to the architecture, the culture, the food and the people were all phenomenal. There were many cafés and restaurants we were able to experience to get the unique flavor of Barcelona. We also spent a day outside the city in the beach resort of Stiges. Simply put, it was an amazing day for the team to spend on the Mediterranean as a group. I couldn't have asked for a better start to this unique experience for the team."

On their two wins:

"I think we showed good progress from game one to game two. Our zone defense was much more effective, we got a lot of deflections and made it difficult for our opponents to get good looks. We played very well offensively, particularly in the second game. We had an advantage inside and capitalized on that to get easy looks inside and generate offense inside-out. What I'm most happy about is the commitment from the guys. They are all 100% bought in, absorbing what the staff is teaching and putting it into practice. We had a great first two games and I'm looking forward to our three games in Italy. The competition should get a little tougher as we will play at least one Serie B team. We want to continue to progress and focus on what we need to do, but of course we want to win."

Thursday, May 31

It's been an eventful European trip so far for the men's hoops team. We arrived on Tuesday, did some sightseeing and had a light practice. Yesterday, they began competition by defeating the Andorra national team, 86-83. Dalen Cuff '06 had a chance to catch up with head coach Kyle Smith after the victory.

On the experience thus far:

"It's been fantastic. It's not really about the wins and losses here. We want to win and will compete incredibly hard to do so but it's about the experience as a team. It's about bonding, becoming closer and learning about where our game is as a team and as individual players."

On the win over Andorra:

"it was a solid win. We adjusted well to the international rules (longer game, wider lanes, etc), time change and were able to pull out a win over a solid opponent. We played almost all zone which is new for our team. We struggled in the first half but were able to lock down in he second and take control of the game. I thought our seniors were great leaders. [Brian] Barbour and Dean [Kowalski] played very well and made critical plays. [Mark] Cisco was dominant inside (24 points, 10 rebounds) and allowed us to get some easy baskets when needed. Overall, good win but we have things to work on."

On going forward:

"I want to see our zone take a big leap forward today against our opponent from Barcelona. We worked on the specific rotations this morning and i feel like we are in a good spot. Our transition defense also has to improve greatly. It's different transitoning back to zone and we need to get better collectively at it. I think it's good to get that first game under our belt. No more jitters, the guys are ready to go today and most importantly have fun out there."