Clemson’s trip to France about more than just basketball

Clemson’s men’s basketball team’s trip out of the country won’t be like the last one.

In 2019, the Tigers traveled to Italy representing Team USA in the World University Games. There was the usual routine of practicing, scouting and game planning, which paid off as Clemson won gold that summer.

There won’t be any of that when Clemson arrives in France later today for its latest foreign tour.

“We don’t treat the games the same,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “There’s no scouting. We don’t practice before. We literally just go over and play. Part of that is on purpose because I want some of the trip to really be the cultural experience.”

Clemson will spend 11 days in the country with stops in Paris, Normandy, Nice and Monaco. The Tigers will play just three games during that time, but with five newcomers, including four true freshmen, spending the summer getting integrated during practice, guards Chase Hunter and Alex Hemenway and senior forward Hunter Tyson said they’re all eager to see how the pieces come together during the Tigers’ first tastes of competition against other teams.

“Just to see how we play there and just see how we gel together,” said Hunter, one of seven holdovers from last year’s team. “We’ve been doing a lot of stuff with each other (in practice), so playing against some other competition will be good for us.”

But there will be plenty of down time in between games, and Brownell and his players plan to take advantage of it by doing plenty of sightseeing and visiting some famous landmarks. One of them needs no introduction.

“I’m excited to see the Eiffel Tower, but I’m petrified of heights,” Brownell said. “So I will not be going to the top of the tower. That’s 100% assured.”

When it comes to historical significance, though, there’s one spot that Brownell and some of his players have at the top of their list. The team will get a chance to visit the beaches of Normandy, where American troops joined Allied forces in June 1944 for the D-Day invasion during World War II. It’s still the largest seaborne invasion in history.

“That’s going to be unbelievable, and I think that will be an incredible experience for all of us,” Brownell said. “It’s something we need to do a little more historical background on.”

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial located there contains the graves of nearly 9,400 soldiers and more than 1,500 names inscribed on the Walls of the Missing, most of whom died during the D-Day landings and ensuing operations, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

“I know we’re going to be able to go to the beaches of Normandy, and I think that’s really going to mean a lot to see that there were guys our age that were storming the beach back on D-Day,” Tyson said . “Just to see all their graves and see the historic site, I think that’s going to mean a lot.”

Hemenway echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“I’m a big historical guy, and I love seeing all of these sites and all of these historical venues,” Hemenway said. “I think it will really put it into perspective just how significant it is that dudes our age were going and giving their lives for our country. I think that will be a really neat experience.”

Brownell said he’s looking forward to using the trip as an opportunity to grow closer with his players off the court.

“When you go have these kinds of life experiences with your players, you have a much better chance to bond, grow, get to know them better and spend more quality time with them,” Brownell said. “It’s not just about basketball. I think that’s really important now as well.”

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