Capel Saw Pitt Bond on ‘Incredible’ Italy Trip

Panthers picked up three wins over foreign opponents

Josh Rowntree
August 16, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Jeff Capel returned to Pittsburgh seemingly with the satisfaction that ten days of Italian food could provide. 

Well, Italian food and basketball.

Capel and the rest of Pitt’s men’s basketball team spent ten days traveling to three different Italian cities, playing a game against foreign opponents in each. 

The result was three wins. But, beyond that, Capel was able to learn about his team and had the opportunity to watch them grow on, for some, a one-in-a-lifetime trip.

“I felt the whole trip was about us trying to become a team,” he said. “I don’t think that just happens, you have to constantly work at. With five new guys eligible this year, that’s something we’re going to have to work at a lot. I thought we grew, we became closer to becoming a team.”

Pitt defeated the Netherlands National ‘B’ Team, 60-55, before blowout wins over the Florience All-Stars (103-53) and the Vincenza All-Stars (104-41).

“The trip was incredible for the practices,” Capel said, referring to the ten additional practices the Panthers were awarded before the trip, as well as the time on the floor in Italy. “But, just as important, the camaraderie, the time away, the time out of the country, the bonding, sharing experiences and moments, that was a pretty incredible place to do that. I’m glad we did it.”

Capel feels the team has made strides in talent from last season, in which the Panthers finished 14-19. Added length and athleticism are the driving factors behind that. Familiarity with Capel and his system is key, as well.

“We do have six or seven guys who were here last year,” he said. “So they know me, they know our coaching staff. They have an idea of what the expectations are. We have someone on the inside, someone in the locker room that can speak our language.”

In addition to the games, Pitt took part in several sightseeing tours, as well as meals and other team bonding events. It was all in an attempt to, on and off the floor, get a team welcoming in eight new faces

“One of the things we tried to do during the trip was that every scholarship guy got a start,” Capel said. “We went to three different cities and, in each hotel, guys had different roommates. Just trying to create an environment where you get to know each other on a different level.”

But on the floor is what matters most to Capel and, really, everyone. Pitt’s fan base is starved to win again and Capel, entering his second year, gave them signs of hope in year one.

The extra practices could end up being more beneficial than anything else, but getting to suit up and take on an unknown opponent is a luxury that not every team gets every season. And it led Capel to want to see some key character attributes from his players.

“Can I be about the team, can it not be just about me,” Capel asked. “When you’re put through the fire in a different country and actually have competition in August, you learn a great deal.”