New-look CU Buffs to balance work, play on basketball tour of Italy

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and his Buffs will take a trip to Italy that will feature four exhibition games against European professionals.

George King says his favorite color is orange.

On the surface, King’s reasoning is obvious. Orange is the color of a basketball, the source of King’s passion. Yet the senior guard for the Colorado Buffaloes also owns a healthy respect for the opportunities basketball has provided in his life, from earning a Division I scholarship to winning the Pac-12 Conference Most Improved Player honor for the 2015-16 season while leading the league in 3-point percentage.

Another unique opportunity is at hand for King and his Buffaloes teammates, as coach Tad Boyle’s club departs Monday for a trip through Italy that will feature four exhibition games against European professionals.

“I always say my favorite color is orange. It’s the same color as a basketball, which has taken me places that I would’ve never been without it,” King said. “This is another example of that, going to Italy all because of the game. I’m obviously very appreciated of that and I’m very excited to see a place I’ve never seen before, one that’s on my bucket list. I get to see a part of the world I’ve never seen before. And what better way to do it than with your teammates?”

The Buffs fly Monday to New York, where they connect with a direct flight to Rome and arrive during the day on Tuesday. CU plays its first game in Rome on Thursday followed by a game Friday in Ponte Buggianese. After a couple off days the Buffs play again on Aug. 21 in Vicenza and Aug. 23 in Vercelli before flying back to America on Aug. 24.

While continuing to work on team cohesion with a group that is adding seven scholarship players to the mix (eight once Serbian freshman guard Lazar Nikolic is cleared by the NCAA), Boyle said there will be ample time for sightseeing during the tour as well. Team-wide trips are on the agenda to Venice, the Colosseum, and the Vatican.

“There’s going to be some days where we give the guys some free time,” Boyle said. “Our families are going, the coaches’ wives and kids. It’s going to be a great experience. The basketball part, that’s where I’m focused in. Certainly the games we’re going to dial into and play to win and compete. But it’s really about the learning that’s going to be going on, both on the court during those games and after those games certainly off the court.”

On the court, the Buffs’ games will feature FIBA international rules, including a 24-second shot clock and an eight-second count for backcourt violations. Boyle said over the weekend the shot clock adjustment could help his youthful club learn to not panic when the shot clock is ticking toward zero.

“Italy has always been one of my dream vacations, and now it’s happening,” freshman guard McKinley Wright said. “This should help. We’ve been working with each other every day. We know each others’ game, but it will be a good test for us to see a little adversity and playing against other players for the first time. I’m looking forward to playing these professionals, and it will help us a lot I think.”

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