Gophers basketball heading to Italy for exhibition games

This weekend Gophers will embark on a unique type of road trip as Richard Pitino's crew heads to Italy for a trio of exhibition games.

“Everybody's going to play,” said Coach Pitino. “I'll tinker with the lineups. I'll tinker with the positions, so I think more than anything it's, for them, it's a fun experience."

The Gophers are scheduled to make stops in Rome, Florence and Lake Como. Winning remains the objective, but what Pitino really wants to see is his players begin to bond and gel before the season begins in the fall.

“I want everybody to lead,” said Pitino. “It doesn't need to be yelling, rah rah, there's ways that you can lead and I think if everybody does that, we'll have a pretty good chemistry, pretty good locker room because that's really, really important."

The players on this year's team have some big shoes to fill. Gone are Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer, but this group of Gophers is filled with guys eager to show what they can do and Pitino likes what he sees thus far.

“My trainer said to me the other day, he said, ‘Hey you got to talk to them about not being in the gym so much’ and I said yeah and I ignored him because I'm not going to do that, but that's the beauty of this group, so hopefully that stays consistent and I think it'll be a good year," said Pitino.

As of now, this team appears to be a bit of an unknown, but the Gophers are hoping to return from Italy with memories made and a better understanding of what they want to become before the real competition starts this fall.

“The practices have been really, really good,” he said. “I think everybody understands where we're trying to go but still got a long way to go."