When a reporter asked Bruno Fernando how well he knew Italian, the Maryland men’s basketball forward — searching for a lifeline — turned to a team official.
“Grazie,” the official suggested.
That jogged Fernando’s memory, reminding him of the phrases on a paper the team handed the players. But after “Ciao,” the Angolan blanked again and switched to Spanish: “Me llamo Bruno.” Fernando’s effort was better than that of guard Anthony Cowan, who admitted he hadn’t worked on his Italian at all, a few days ahead of the Terps’ 10-day training trip to Italy.
But for a team with nine underclassmen and just two seniors, the trip is an opportunity to learn more than just a new language. Coach Mark Turgeon’s squad gets early practices and games, which the coach rued missing out on last season.
“I can’t imagine us starting in October with this group. I’d be a nervous wreck,” Turgeon said. “This is really going to help me relax. … It’s a huge advantage in a lot of areas.”
When Maryland played Purdue and Butler early last year, Turgeon saw firsthand the benefits a preseason trip abroad can have. After both of those games, Turgeon said the teams had advanced playbooks early in the year, which he credited to their time in Europe.
The Boilermakers and their four seniors had midseason understanding of the playbook on Dec. 1 matchup and, although Maryland beat Butler in November, the Bulldogs ran about 30 plays, Turgeon said.
The Terps’ trip to Italy will be the first time Maryland heads abroad since 2013, when the team visited the Bahamas. College teams are allowed to take one such tour once every four years, and after losing seven players from last season’s roster, the Italy trip comes at a good time for the Terps.
“I wish I had this my freshman year,” Cowan said. “It’s going to make things run a lot smoother during the season.”
Fernando, who participated in the NBA combine this spring but opted to return to Maryland for his sophomore season, also said he would’ve benefited from the additional time prior to his rookie campaign.
As he adjusted to playing in college last year, Fernando would forget plays, he said.
“We didn’t really have practice until, like, preseason,” Fernando said. “For them to come in right now this time of the year … having team practices, it’s [very] beneficial for them to get to learn and know the plays.”
Turgeon called out plays for his group to run at open practice Thursday. Entering his eighth season in College Park, Turgeon said he’s overwhelming the team with information. Not because he’s concerned about the games in Italy, but to make October practices easier. So far, he thinks it’s working.
“I was really worried about five days ago. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got so much to do,” Turgeon said. “They all caught on. Our leadership’s been better the last few days. We’ve hit it like it’s the first 10 days of practice. We’ve hit it really hard.”