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The Gamecocks vs. Eastern Europe

Russia invaded the republic of Georgia on Friday morning, a few hours after the South Carolina men’s basketball team landed in the Czech Republic. We can only assume, or at least hope, these two events are completely unrelated.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Stalking Darrin Horn is not stalking the Gamecocks on their eight-day European excursion. A little matter of covering football practice, as well as this blog’s small budget, prevent that. However Matt Freed of USC’s sports information office, who is along for the ride, has promised to provide good information, and he came through in his first installment.

Still, we can’t help but comment on those events. It’s a nice respite from flying footballs and fans angry at columnists. So what follows is Mr. Freed’s wonderful report, along with my notes and liners.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (Aug. 7, 2008) - The Gamecock men’s basketball team arrived in Prague, Czech Republic, on Thursday morning about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Darrin Horn has been getting his players early to practice, and apparently he’s also intimidating the pilots at Delta. Meanwhile when I was in Europe earlier this summer we regularly left an hour late because of technical problems. (Technically, they couldn’t find the plane.)

After passing the time on the 9-hour, 30-minute flight to Prague using various time-killing instruments (primarily iPods, PSPs, sleep and food) the Gamecocks cleared immigration, grabbed their bags and loaded the bus bound for the Intercontinental Praha.

They forgot to include “endless stream of sleeping pills” for Devan Downey, who I cannot imagine staying still for 10 seconds, much less 10 hours.

Their tour guides for the trip, Johnny Jokaj and his daughter Maria, greeted them at the charter bus.

Jokaj is a palindrome of “Kojak.” I’m sure someone quickly figured that out. And when his daughter Maria was introduced, I’m sure half the team broke out into “How do you solve a problem like Maria” from “The Sound of Music.”

Not able to check in to the hotel until 1 p.m. local time, South Carolina took a brief tour of the area surrounding the famous Prague Castle followed by a quick tour of the city where Maria pointed out some of the notable landmarks.

While the locals pointed at 6-foot-10 Mitchell Carter and said, “No, THAT’S a landmark.”

Once checked in to the hotel, head coach Darrin Horn took his players on a light jog to keep them from falling asleep in an effort to help them adjust to the six-hour time difference.

I’ll really curious whether this works. When I landed in Serbia (also a six-hour difference) last month, I thought I was already on local time because I was wide awake. Then a day later, it hit me. By the time I finally got on European time, it was time to go home.

My point being, if at some point during the Gamecocks’ first game Zam Fredrick sends an outlet pass that is stolen because Mike Holmes is asleep at midcourt (I mean literally ASLEEP), well don’t be too surprised.

After the jog, everyone was left on their own to tour the city at their own free will.

Nothing good could have come of this.

The Gamecocks will tour Terezin concentration camp on Friday morning and later get an inside look at the Prague Castle.

Seriously, the tour of Terezin is a great idea. Anybody would get a lot out of that.

On the other hand, the castle tour is fraught with possibilities of players getting lost, assistant coaches challenging Czechs to duels, Darrin Horn trying to teach the scramble defense to helpless tour guides, etc.

Carolina plays its first game Saturday against Bresnov BBC at noon ET.

I’m going to assume Bresnov BBC is not the local affiliate of the British Broadcasting Corporation. If it is, I predict a resounding USC victory.