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Class was in session for the Tennessee basketball team early Friday morning. After eating a quick breakfast, the team attended a 45-minute lecture on the history of the Czech lands presented by Dr. David Tompkins, a professor of history at the University of Tennessee who specializes on 20th century Central European history. Dr. Tompkins led three sessions prior to leaving Knoxville to teach the team about the areas they will be visiting while in Europe.
Each of the players will have to give presentations about the sites the Vols are visiting. The players are also doing readings and keeping a journal of the trip in which they will have to write daily entries about the lectures and the sites they have visited. Today Steven Pearl and Jordan Howell gave the first presentation about the history of Prague Castle before going on a tour of the castle grounds. Later, Chris Lofton and Josh Tabb taught their teammates about the Charles Bridge while standing on the structure.
“This is to provide them with the tools to understand what we are seeing as we go along,” Dr. Tompkins said. “Coach Pearl wanted me to come along so that they are not just playing games or looking for the nearest McDonald’s. He wants them to get something out of this on an academic level. They will be coming to my daily lectures, doing a cultural-historical scavenger hunt on Monday where they will have to go out into Prague and find out information from different historical sites. This is something for them to interact with the cities and cultures that they are encountering.”
Tennessee started Friday’s tour at Prague Castle. They toured the surrounding courtyards and visited the torture chambers where they saw the body armor and weapons that were used to help defend the castle. Some of the Vols even took the opportunity to shoot a cross bow inside a part of the castle.
After visiting the castle, the Vols walked to the Charles Bridge which crosses the Vltava River. Several of the players stopped to have a caricature drawn of them while on the bridge. They also stopped to see the statues that line the 700-year-old bridge. The statute or John of Nepomuk – a saint of the Czech people – is supposed to bring luck when rubbed.
“This is a great way to learn about the places we are visiting,” Lofton said. “We get a chance to teach our teammates something about what we are seeing. You get a better understanding of things when you are seeing them instead of just reading about them.”
The Vols will take a short break Friday afternoon before heading to the nearby city of Podebrady in the evening to meet BK Sadska in the first of their five-game schedule while in Europe.