MILWAUKEE (AP) An upcoming trip to Italy and Switzerland is coming at an ideal time for the young Marquette Golden Eagles.
Second-year coach Steve Wojciechowski said his program will benefit greatly this year from the rule allowing teams to take a foreign tour once every four years.
Marquette will have had 10 practices by the time it leaves Monday for its 10-day trip to Europe. The four games overseas will provide a first glimpse of Marquette's highly-touted freshman class led by forward Henry Ellenson.
''Our guys need to put some hair on their chest and grow up and get ready for the rigors of a college basketball season,'' Wojciechowski said Tuesday evening at the McGuire Center. ''This gives us a chance to get a head start.''
Marquette's lone senior is walk-on forward Michael Mache.
''I'm glad we get this extra time,'' freshman guard Haanif Cheatham said. ''Usually you are practicing in September and the season is right around the corner. It would have been a harder thing to adjust to. Now that we are practicing in July and August, it will be easier for us to adjust and get better playing together.''
Marquette will play its first game on the tour Aug. 12 in Rome against Hankur Basketball, a professional team from Iceland.
The Golden Eagles will then face BC Atletas out of Lithuania in Montecatinit Terme, Italy on Aug. 15, Vicenza Select in Vincenza, Italy on Aug. 16 and Sam Basket Massagno in Lugano, Switzerland on Aug. 19.
''It's hit and miss,'' Wojciechowski said of the competition. ''You don't have a great deal of knowledge before you walk into the game situation, so the main focus has to be us.''
Ellenson is fully recovered after breaking his left hand in the Wisconsin high school basketball playoffs in March. He is ready to play overseas, as is junior center Luke Fischer, who is recovered from left shoulder surgery.
''I'm 100 percent,'' Fischer said. ''No more worries about that. I was always ahead of schedule, which was fantastic. Rehab went by real quick. I never had any worries about it, any issues with it. We're looking great right now.''
It will mark the first time out of the country for the majority of Marquette's roster, which adds a cultural element to the experience.
The Golden Eagles will receive a crash course in Italian culture from the wife of director of player personnel Travis Diener. The former Marquette star played five seasons in Italy, while his wife, Rosamaria, is a first generation Italian.
Stops will be made throughout Italy in Rome, Florence, Pisa, Treviso, Venice, Vicenza, Lake Como, while Marquette will also visit Vatican City.
''I think it's a great opportunity to build camaraderie,'' Wojciechowski said. ''You get to share experiences that in some cases are once in a lifetime. All of those things should be of great benefit to this group in growing together.''