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Any itinerary when visiting Italy includes a few musts: like trying the world-renowned cuisine. Syracuse Orange forward Elijah Hughes is no different, with his team set to tour the country for four games in 10 days on a foreign tour that will stream live on FloHoops.com and the FloSports app.
“I’m looking forward to the experience, itself," Hughes said. "I’ve heard a lot of good things about the food, about the people, the scenery."
But the veteran leader of a new-look Syracuse bunch understands the balance necessary for the Orange to make this a trip to remember.
“We’re going to have to have a level of focus. We’re going over there to win four games,” he said. “But we’re also going over there to enjoy ourselves, have fun, and experience a new country and new culture.”
??— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) July 16, 2019
Our first practice for Italy is in the books. pic.twitter.com/8kXPQRkhIQ
Syracuse opens the tour with its first game Aug. 12 in Vedano Olona, followed by dates in Vincenza (Aug. 14), Siena (Aug. 17) and Rome (Aug. 18). In between, the Orange will get 10 NCAA-allowed practices to establish chemistry for the upcoming season.
Hughes is the cornerstone for a roster that replaces Oshae Brissett, Tyus Battle and Frank Howard. Hughes is the lone returner among the top four scorers of a team that won 20 games in 2018-19, averaging 13.7 points per game. He’s also coming off a season shooting a team-best 36.9 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Reinforcements arrived this summer, with incoming 4-star prospects Bryce Goodine and Quincy Guerrier two of the names to know during the Italian tour.
“All of our freshmen and everyone new brings something good to the table, and something unique,” Hughes said. “We’re trying to maximize our potential as much as possible.”
Syracuse will get to see the full limits of its early potential once it jumps into the regular season come November. The Orange open the campaign at home in Atlantic Coast Conference play against defending national champion Virginia.
Such a high-stakes game out of the gate puts a premium on these offseason months. That facet adds an extra dimension of intrigue to the Italian tour.
What’s more, legendary Orange head coach Jim Boeheim’s public flirtation with the possibility of playing man-to-man brings a new element to the trip. The longtime 2-3 zone guru Boeheim told Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com an exhibition trek like this is the opportunity to evaluate just such a prospect.
“I would never gamble in a game during the regular season, but if you gamble over there and it doesn’t work, it’s not going to be a problem,” he said. “Until I see them, I don’t know that there’s not some possibility that we won’t play some man-to-man.”
The Syracuse zone defense is renowned for forcing opponents into frustrating possessions and low-percentage shots. Field-goal attempts from the interior last season were sent back with regularity; the Orange ended 16.8 percent of opponent possessions in blocked shots, thanks in part to Hughes.
How the Syracuse defense might look with a man-to-man wrinkle is as intriguing as any item that might be on the dinner menu during the Orange’s trip.