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Aug. 6, 2008

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina men’s basketball team departs Wednesday, Aug. 6, for an eight-day tour of Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria.

The Gamecocks depart from Columbia Metropolitan Airport a little after 5 p.m. for Atlanta and then catch a 7:30 p.m. trans-Atlantic flight to Prague, Czech Republic, scheduled to take 9 hours, 30 minutes. When the team lands, it will be 11 a.m. local time Thursday, Aug. 7, due to the six-hour time difference.

While basketball will be an important part of the trip for South Carolina, first-year head coach Darrin Horn sees it as a tremendous educational opportunity for his players.

“It’s a great educational experience for our young people,” Horn said. “The basketball will be basketball and the other part will be fun. It’s pretty much that simple. We just think that the experience and educational portion of being in a different country, traveling overseas and all that is really, really important.”

For one Gamecock, Evaldas Baniulis, traveling to Europe will get him closer to his home country of Lithuania. Baniulis echoed coach Horn’s comments on the goals for the trip.

“I think this trip is all about bonding and just getting to know each other and getting to know the coaching staff,” Baniulis said. “This trip is all about that, not about basketball, even though it is going to be a good opportunity for us to find out who’s who, but it’s still far away from the season.”

Upon arriving in Prague, the Gamecocks are scheduled to take a bus tour of the city and then a tour of the Prague Castle. The castle is the world’s largest ancient castle at 1,870 feet long with an average width of 420 feet while occupying 18 acres of land.

On Friday, Aug. 8, South Carolina will visit Terezin concentration camp used by Nazis during World War II. The Gestapo took control of the fortress and prison city of Terezin in 1940, and its function was to provide a front for the extermination operation of Jews.

The following day marks the first of three consecutive days with games against European teams. Carolina faces Benesov BC at 11 a.m. ET and then departs the next morning for Bratislava, Slovakia.

The Gamecocks will have to play games according to FIBA rules, which are somewhat different from the NCAA. Instead of two 20-minute halves, the game will be divided into four 10-minute periods. The playing court will also have a different layout, as the lane is a trapezoid (19 feet, 8 inches on the baseline and 11 feet, 10 inches at the free-throw line) in international play, while for NCAA games it is a 12-foot by 19-foot rectangle. The 3-point line also moves back from 19 feet, 9 inches in NCAA play to 20 feet, 6 inches, and South Carolina will deal with a 24-second shot clock as oppose to 35 seconds.

A portion of Sunday, Aug. 10, will be spent on a bus making the four-plus hour trip from Prague to Bratislava. After checking in to the hotel and resting for a few hours, South Carolina takes on Pezinok BBC at 1 p.m. ET.

Monday’s schedule feature’s a tour of Bratislava Castle and an opportunity to visit Martin Cathedral, a spot where at least nine Hungarian kings and eight queens were crowned from 1563 to 1830. At noon ET, the Gamecocks face BK Nitra.

A short bus ride on Tuesday, Aug. 12, lands the Gamecocks in Vienna, Austria. After touring the city in the afternoon with a professional guide, the team will visit the famous Prater Amusement Park, home to the “Riesenrad” (The Giant Ferris Wheel). At its highest point, the ride stands almost 200 feet high.

On their final full day of the trip Wednesday, Aug. 13, the Gamecocks have the opportunity to visit numerous sites, including the Imperial Palace, Upper Belvedere Palace and Museum of Fine Arts. Their fourth and final game of the tour takes place at 12:30 p.m. ET against Klosterneuburg.

South Carolina departs Vienna on Thursday morning, Aug. 14, for an 11-hour flight back to Atlanta before arriving in Columbia, S.C., later that night.