Butler basketball travel journal: After Vatican visit, it was time to get to work

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Editor's note: Carmel's John-Michael Mulloy will submit journal entries for IndyStar during the Butler Bulldogs' tour of Italy and Greece.

Day 3 began, and we all were up early ready to go play our first game in Rome. We first set off for Vatican City. This was one of the trips I was most excited about.

We gathered on the bus talking about the Vatican, the game and wondering if the team we were going to play was going to be good or not. We were bonding and becoming closer as a team. When going through the Vatican, it was jaw-dropping to see the hand sculptures, paintings and decoration.

Walking into the Sistine Chapel was the best part of the visit as we were able to see the excellence of Michelangelo. It’s truly amazing how these ancient pieces throughout the city have been preserved so well, allowing people from across the world to see them. We ended the morning by visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica and then needed to get back for a much-needed nap before our first game.

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After getting on the bus, all of us began to get prepared for the game. You find out quickly a routine before any game is crucial in college basketball in order to get your mind and body right to play to the best of your ability.

Everyone is different. Some take naps, watch film or listen to music. And some do every single one of those. This is something every freshman kind of figures out on his own and usually sticks to for the rest of his career. I myself eat a small pregame meal, go back and take a short nap, and then listen to the same playlist I have had since the fifth grade on the way to the game.

We all loaded onto the bus, locked in and ready to go. We were excited because it was finally time to go to work playing together as one team. As I said before, we all have been killing each other every day in the weight room and on the court to get Butler basketball back to where it needs to be, and it was finally time to put our work to the test.

All of us were locked in. Coach Matta got on the bus with his game-time coffee, and we hit the road for our first game as Team 125.

On the way there, I had a lot of emotions as it was the first game of my senior season. It’s crazy how quickly this experience has gone, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. While there have been many ups and downs throughout my time at Butler, I can look back and see how much I have grown not only as a player but also as a person. The Butler Way is truly a thing, and it’s something I was always thankful to be a part of. The bus stopped at our destination, and it was time to go play.

As soon as we got into the gym, we learned how lucky we were to have the things we have when playing the game we loved. The gym didn’t have air conditioning — it was about 97 degrees outside and felt as if it was the same temperature in the building.

At this point, we didn’t even need a warm-up. We were already sweating after switching into our uniforms. After adapting to our conditions, we went through our usual pregame routine, excited to compete. We went into the locker room with 10 minutes left before tip-off to meet with coach, locked in and ready to go.

Coach had very few words for us, but every word was meaningful. Coach told us to play for each other, play as hard as possible, play Butler basketball, and to go have fun. That’s all we needed to hear.

While I could write a play-by-play of how the game went, this journal would be too long to do so. Our first game went the way it was supposed to.

The first quarter, everyone had their first-game jitters. The team we were playing was good, but not as good as we were making them seem. We needed to settle down, and that’s exactly what coach told us to do after the first break.

Once we chilled out, we were off to the races and didn’t look back. Everyone was making plays for each other and everyone began to hit shots. Most importantly, everyone was truly having fun playing with each other.

At halftime, we were up by 18 points, but coach challenged us to do even better and not take our foot off the gas pedal. We did exactly that and won by 30.

For our first game together, everyone had a great time, and it seemed all of our hard work paid off. While we still have much more to do and much more room to get better, our performance solidified that we have a chance of being a great team this year.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: John-Michael Mulloy, Butler basketball on Vatican visit, 2022 games