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Jay Simpson, a former Champaign Central High School and Purdue basketball standout, writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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College road trips were the best. It’s like the further we went, the more fun we had as a team.

During my years at Purdue, we weren’t the best team by any means, but we were all very close and stood by each other’s side. Normally, on college teams, guys clique up off the court and certain people only hang out with certain people. If you’ve played sports before, you can probably relate to this.

This wasn’t the case for us. In fact, having a losing record made us even closer. We would all link up in each other’s hotel rooms to play the game and talk about sports, girls and music — typical college-guy stuff. We had scheduled homework times as well. Of course, we weren’t looking forward to doing homework on the road — no one liked it — but we knew it’s what had to be done, so we knocked it out.

After we got our work done on the road, we usually got the rest of the night to chill and hang out until it was our curfew.

Curfew on the road was usually 11 p.m. unless we had an early game, then the curfew time varied. This was always the worst part, in our minds, because we had to turn in our phones. We all understood why they took our phones, but it was a bummer every time it happened, even though we knew it was coming.

I would have to say my all-time favorite college road trip would be the Italy

tour we took at Purdue in the summer of 2012. This was probably the best vacation of my life because it was my first time out of the country.

I was fresh out of high school and fresh out of a foot cast, so I was finally able to walk without crutches and enjoy myself. We stayed in Italy for about 12 days and visited five different cities.

It was the most beautiful experience of my life. On the days we didn’t have games, we got to explore the city. Each player got a per diem when we got there, and it was more than enough money to last us while we were on the tour. We did a lot of fun tourist activities and took lots of pictures with people.

Although we didn’t really like the authentic Italian food, it was great to get to try some and even see how they make it.

The experience was breathtaking. To be welcomed with open arms in another country like that, I loved everything about Italy, and I hope I’m able to go back and visit one day with my children.

Jay Simpson writes for The News-Gazette.

His column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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