Phil Martelli is standing off to the side of a practice floor answering questions from two reporters.

He's in the middle of a thought, gets distracted by his team running sets, begins to trail off, snaps his neck, and yells …

That's too slow!

… before recovering his original train of thought -- about how his team needs to be doing everything a lot faster.

The Saint Joseph's Hawks are one of three Big 5 schools -- along with Temple and Penn -- who are set to travel to Italy this month for international competition, which is why Martelli's team was even together for an organized practice on Friday morning. St. Joe's has four games scheduled from Aug. 11-21 against four Italian club teams and will make stops in Rome, Florence, Venice and Como.

The individual Big 5 trips are all independent of each other, and the timing is completely by coincidence. But the Hawks, Owls and Quakers will all be in Italy at roughly the same time, prompting Martelli to quip:

"I've joined the world of Twitter, and I've suggested that maybe what we should do is all meet down in South Jersey and play scrimmages with Penn State. And that will be our foreign tour."

But why settle? Martelli is grateful to have the opportunity to take his team overseas for the first time since 1999.

"The best programs in the country, this is what they do every four years," he said. "We consider ourselves as a program to be one of the best in America.

"The chance for these guys to have a social opportunity they may never have again is really going to prove to be invaluable for them as people, and that's part of my responsibility."

Still, it's not exclusively a social junket. The Hawks have spent the last two weeks getting in the 10 full offseason practices the NCAA allows them as a result of their trip. Friday's was their last.

Each of the sessions were geared around the Hawks' doing everything faster, as should have been evident above. That particular exchange between Martelli and his players might lead you to believe there are some airline pilots, bus drivers and baggage handlers who may not be as excited about St. Joe's upcoming trip.

The team leaves from JFK in New York on Sunday night. Imagine something like Martelli poking his head into the cockpit and telling the pilots to "pick it up."

It's the new pace of St. Joe's basketball. Everything has to move faster.

"I want them to play at a better pace," he said. "Just pace, being more aggressive.

"We have to force more than nine turnovers a game.

"[And] we have to score more. We have to take more shots."

The Hawks forced 10.3 turnovers per game last season, did so with a minus-1.6 margin, and were tied 314th in the country in steals per game (5.19). Those factors helped contribute to an average of just 67.4 points when they struggled to get easy baskets, ranking them 12th out of 16 A-10 schools in scoring, and a season that fell far short of expectations.

St. Joe's was picked as the preseason favorite to win the A-10 but finished 18-14 overall and 8-8 in conference play. The Hawks ultimately closed out their season with narrow losses to No. 25 VCU in the second round of the A-10 tournament and St. John's in the first round of the NIT.

Martelli's team now heads into the 2013-14 season with two key losses from last year's team. Point guard Carl Jones went through his four years of eligibility and center C.J. Aiken opted to decline the last year of his, going pro instead.

Although seniors Langston Galloway, Ron Roberts, Halil Kanacevic and Daryus Quarles are the familiar faces that could join junior Chris Wilson to make up a potential starting five, the team's bench will consist of some newer faces like rising sophomore Isaiah Miles and incoming freshmen DeAndre Bembry (6-6, 187) and Jai Williams (6-9, 285). It's also likely that Roberts and Kanacevic, given Aiken's absence, will be sliding down from the their spots at the 3 and the 4 to more often man the 4 and the 5, as they've done in stints with Aiken off the floor over the past two seasons.

But Martelli isn't thinking that far ahead and doesn't think anyone else needs to either.

"They'll all get a chance to play [during the trip]," he said, meaning his entire roster. "Anybody that comes and says, 'Well, so and so started,' -- Yeah, he might have started two of the games and then two other games he didn't start.

"I'm going to play everybody, give everybody a chance with some different combinations. We're going to come away with individual decisions, not group decisions."

By the sounds of it, heading to Italy seems like it may have been an individual decision.

Asked, "Why Italy and not somewhere else?" Martelli responded:

"Where else would you go?"

Forcing a reporter to respond: "I don't know, I'm just asking."

"Well, that's my answer. Where else would you go?" he asked again. "Between the beauty and the cultural advantages …

"And then when the Pope was named a Jesuit, and we're a Jesuit school, we had to go Italy."

Can't argue with that. That's divine intervention.

And if all goes well, the program's first international tour since 1999 could be the starting point for its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2008.

Venice sounds pretty nice either way.