Home » Memorable trip for Virginia Tech men’s basketball team

Memorable trip for Virginia Tech men’s basketball team

Memorable trip for Virginia Tech men’s basketball team

For many people, the summer offers an opportunity to travel.

That was the case this month for the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.

The Hokies took a trip to Switzerland and Italy from Aug. 4-12, visiting nine cities and playing two exhibition games.

“It was great,” Tech coach Mike Young said Tuesday on a video conference. “When these guys come back in 10 years, 15 years, I bet one of the first things they reference is that tour.”

Under NCAA rules, the 2023-24 edition of the Hokies was able to practice for 10 days before heading overseas.

“We treated it much like the start of the regular season,” Young said. “That was helpful.”

It was the program’s first overseas trip since Young was hired in 2019. The trip included stops in Milan, Italy; Lake Como in Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland; and Tech’s Steger Center for International Scholarship in Switzerland, among other destinations.

People are also reading…

The Hokies played two exhibitions in Italy, beating youth team Orange Basket Bassano 78-59 and defeating an Italian “all-star” team 105-67.

“We could have played [against the media] and gotten more out of the two competitions than we got out of those two games over there,” Young joked. “The competition was not great.

“I’ve never done [foreign trips] for the games. I’ve done it for the practices. I’ve done it for the opportunity.”

For Young, the trip had benefits beyond basketball. Tech booster Kevin Crofton, a Daleville native now living in France, provided suggestions for the tour.

“Thirteen of our 15 players had never been outside the continental United States,” Young said. “How many kids at Virginia Tech, across the country, … have had the opportunity to study abroad? We don’t have that luxury [on the Hokies because of the basketball season].

“For them to … walk up the streets to Milan, and Lugano in Switzerland, eat together, is quite meaningful.”

The Hokies have also been participating in summer workouts, providing even more chances for Young to eye his returning players and newcomers.

“This is the deepest team that we’ve had,” Young said. “It’s going to be one of those years … where what you look like in terms of the rotation early in the year will be far different from what your rotation looks like in January or February as people emerge.

“This is the biggest Virginia Tech team I’ve had.

“With that depth comes more versatility than I first expected looking at it on paper.”

Young added three players from the transfer portal in the offseason.

Northwestern graduate transfer Robbie Beran, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Wildcats last season.

“He’s really good [defensively],” Young said. “Beran will offer us the opportunity to switch a lot of things [on defense].

“[The Wildcats] were one of the better defensive teams in the country. We were not. And that’s a real source of concern around here and something we spent even more time on this summer than in years past. So we’re going to have an uptick in that area.”

North Carolina transfer Tyler Nickel, who broke the Virginia High School League record with 2,909 career points at East Rockingham High School in Elkton, will play power forward and small forward for Tech. The 6-7 Nickel averaged just 2.1 points and 6.1 minutes as a UNC freshman last season.

He had 20 points in the Hokies’ win over the Italian “all-star” team.

“Every time Tyler Nickel shoots it, I think it’s going in,” Young said.

Old Dominion graduate transfer Mekhi Long averaged 10.7 points and 8.7 rebounds for ODU last season. The 6-7 forward had 14 rebounds in Tech’s second win of the trip.

“He’s got a real nose for [the ball]. But we weren’t playing the Pistons,” Young cracked.

Tech has added two scholarship freshmen — guards Brandon Rechsteiner and Jaydon Young.

“They’re really good players,” Young said. “Those [pre-trip] practices aid those young people as much as anyone.

“Both those guys had good moments and are going to be really good players around here. How much are they going to play this year? I don’t know the answer to that yet.”

The returning players include Hunter Cattoor, Sean Pedulla, Lynn Kidd, Mylyjael Poteat, Rodney Rice, MJ Collins, John Camden and Patrick Wessler (who was redshirted last season). Young said Poteat is in good shape but did not play on the trip for precautionary reasons because of leg problems in his career.

Rice played in only eight games as a freshman last season because of injuries. He will see action at point guard and on the wing this season.

“I do expect he and Pedulla to be on the floor together quite a bit,” Young said. “Rice has had a great summer. … To see him and Cattoor and Pedulla on the floor together, to see him at the top of the floor playing the point with MJ Collins and maybe moving Pedulla of the ball some, [there are] a lot of things I want to see.”

The 2019-20 edition of the Hokies also took a trip — to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational.

Wildfires in Maui this month killed at least 115 people and devastated downtown Lahaina.

“I can’t imagine the gym where we played is still there. The gym where we played was in Lahaina,” Young said. “I have thought a lot about those folks. That’s a really, really hard situation and so terribly unfortunate.”

More than 2,000 structures were destroyed by the wildfires.

“[Maui] was glorious. Just a beautiful, beautiful place,” Young said. “I had never wanted to go, because of how long the flight is. … And then our first afternoon there, the reception area’s open air, here’s the water, and I’m walking with my wife and I said to her, ‘You know what? I’ve never wanted to do this, but now that we’re here, I’ll come back again next week if they wanted me to.’

“Wonderful, wonderful people and to see what they’re having to live through has been hard for a lot of us.”