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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Trip to Italy about more than just basketball

Make no mistake, from the basketball side of things a trip overseas like the one the UConn women's basketball team is about to embark on is incredibly beneficial.

Freshmen Brianna Banks, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes have an opportunity to go through full practices for 10 days before heading to Italy on Tuesday when the Huskies will play four games.

But for UConn coach Geno Auriemma, trips like the one his team will be taking, is as much about broadening his players' horizons.

"It is kind of funny, we should probably take them on a tour of the United States," Auriemma said. "A lot of these guys, if you showed them a map of the U.S., couldn't point to more than two states - the one they are in and the one they are born in. For us to take them over so they can see the Vatican, the Colosseum, this is the Uffizi (Palace) in Florence. You hope that they understand the significance of all of that. I think it is our job when we go over.

"I'll never forget the first time we went over in 1994 and we got to Paris and it was early in the morning. Right away, we went on a sight-seeing tour and at the end of the day the kids were shot. We had to hurry up the next morning and leave to go to Belgium to play two game but we had two hours from 8-10 before the bus was leaving. I remember saying to the kids 'whoever wants to go to the Lu (Tower) meet me in the lobby.' So we show up and there is Jamelle Elliott, Jen Rizzotti, Kim Better and maybe another player. We went over there, rushed throuigh it and saw as much as we could, ran back to hotel and the rest of the guys were sleeping in the lobby. I remember I said this to Rebecca (Lobo) especially because I wanted to needle her a little bit. I said when you get home and your mom asks 'what did you do when you went to Paris?' I want you to say 'mom and dad everybody else went to The Lu but I slept in the lobby of the hotel.' I think that will be pretty impressive. So from that point on, if we said 'hey, look there is a guy selling sausages and peppers, let's go see.' You just have to teach them what the object of the trip is and what is important and how many opportunities they are going to get to see things like this in your lifetime and by the end of the trip they have a better appreciation."

UConn did these trips in 1994 and 1999 but since freshmen weren't allowed to join the team, Auriemma had little interest in making the trips. When that changed recently, he signed up with a trip to Italy.

"It went back and forth and back and forth," Auriemma said. "In the two times we went in '94 and '99, the freshmen couldn't go and I stared to realize 'what is the point?' So we went in November that one year (2006). People kept posting that freshmen should be able to go and then they kept voting conference one or two kept voting no. We kept saying 'why?' They kept saying 'it is too expensive.' That is for you, but if we want to go why shouldn't we be able to go. You can't buy that car because I can't afford it. So what. So eventually, enough people said that was ridiculous.

"Football players come out, practice and sometimes they play three games before they even start a class. I think eventually once the kids sign their letters of intent to come to summer school, they do their six weeks of summer school they are on your team, they are part of your program. To leave them home, it just doesn't make any sense. That is when we decided that once they passed that rule, we'd start going back in August."

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