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Aug. 13, 2008

VIENNA, Austria — The University of South Carolina men’s basketball team will return to Columbia, S.C., on Thursday following a one-week tour of Eastern Europe. What follows are several notes and observations during the trip.

  • South Carolina’s starting lineup for the first two games and fourth consisted of Devan Downey, Brandis Raley-Ross, Zam Fredrick, Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes. In the third game, Sam Muldrow filled in for Holmes after Holmes sat out due to a mild left ankle sprain suffered in the closing minutes of the second game.
  • Dogs seem to be allowed to go just about anywhere, including nice restaurants. Maybe they come in handy in cleaning the floor so the staff can close it down in a shorter amount of time.
  • The traffic lights consist of green, yellow and red just like the United States and mean the same things, but they function a little differently. On a green light, the green will start to blink a few times before the yellow comes on, and on a red light, the yellow will come on at the same time as the red a few seconds before finally going to green. It seemed to work well in terms of letting people know what was about to happen.
  • Dealing with currency in Slovakia was the toughest of the three countries and most confusing. The good news was for the most part, one could pay in Czech or Slovak money or Euros in most cases, but there was no telling what the change would be. In some cases, one would get Czech after paying with Euros or Slovak after paying in Czech. Whether or not the correct change was given, no one was really sure.
  • As a team, South Carolina shot over 50 percent for the trip, connecting at a 51.5 percent clip (155-of-301). The Gamecocks were deadly from 3-point range as well, making 43.4 percent of their attempts (46-of-106).
  • One of the first things both Maria and Jane Lokaj told the Gamecocks in terms of the Slovak language was a short sentence they could practice that consists of words with only consonants. The phrase goes, “Strc prst skrz krk.” The translation is, “Put your finger in your throat.” Very few people, if any, attempted to actually repeat this phrase, not only because of how difficult it is but also due to the meaning.
  • The Gamecocks’ scoring defense got better each quarter on average, going from 21 in the first to 19.8 in the second to 18.3 in the third to 14.3 in the fourth.
  • Garbage cans seemed to be scarce no matter where the Gamecocks went. Hopefully, no one was offended if the locker room looked messy after the team left because there didn’t seem to be any place to put the trash.
  • South Carolina’s final opponent, the Kosterneuburg Basket Dukes, apparently stole a page out of the NASCAR handbook by peppering their jerseys with one advertisement after another. The game sort of felt like watching one long commercial.
  • Over the course of the four games, Devan Downey led the Gamecocks in scoring average with 22.8 points per game. Zam Fredrick was second with 17.5, followed by Mike Holmes with 13.3 and Brandis Raley-Ross with 10.
  • Although they broke 100 points just once, the Gamecocks’ scoring average for the trip was 101.5 thanks to a 112-point effort in the final game after reaching totals of 99, 99 and 96 in the previous three.
  • The coaching staff could not listen to the cell phone ring tone of Dusan, the bus driver, enough times. After finally asking Jane Lokaj for a translation of what the person was saying on the ring tone, they received the following: “Hello. Listen to me. You’re not picking up the phone. You’re still not picking up the phone. It doesn’t matter because we’re already halfway to you. We’ll be there in a minute, and I’ll cut your throat.” The voice is a character called Banan (Banana) on a popular TV series in Slovakia called “Mafstory” (Mafia Story), a comedy about the Mafia. Click HERE to listen to a recording of the entire ring tone.
  • South Carolina’s average margin of victory for the tour was 28.2 points.
  • Many thanks go to Johny Lokaj and his two daughters Jane and Maria of Basketball Travelers, Inc. Without their help and guidance, the trip would not have been anywhere near as smooth as it was.
  • Johny Lokaj will probably be best remembered for his first line when using the microphone on the bus each time the traveling party loaded it. “Does everyone have their neighbor?” This simple line made sure no one was ever left behind.
  • A big round of applause goes to the Gamecocks’ video coordinator Kris DeBlasio for providing all the footage of the trip for His hard work made the experience for fans following the team all that much more enjoyable.