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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

UConn's trip to Italy begins tonight

Megan Walker doesn't know exactly what will transpire in the next six months but the highly-touted freshman figures to learn plenty about herself and her fellow freshman during UConn's tour of Italy.

The trip begins tonight with a flight out of New York with the entire team except for senior guard Kia Nurse, currently in Argentina playing for Canada in the FIBA AmeriCup Championship.

There will be plenty of sightseeing but also the chance to play four exhibition games meeting the Netherlands national team on Monday and Tuesday in Rome, a game on Friday against the Italian All-Stars in Vicenza and will meet Celje on Aug. 20 in Capodistria. Celje posted a 29-1 record in the Slovenia pro league in addition to posting a 13-5 record in the Women Adriatic Basketball Association. I haven't seen the team rosters yet to know if that is the same squad that will face the Huskies with the exception of the Netherlands Orange Angels squad which will play the two games against UConn and one against Duke.

According to the Netherlands Orange Angels official site, the roster includes former Syracuse standout Isabella Slim, who had nine points and two rebounds against the Huskies in the 2016 national championship game.

Here's the roster posted on the official site: Jill Bettonvil, Loyce Bettonvil, Janis Ndiba. Isabella Slim, Karin Kuijt, Jacobine Klerx, Janiek van Veen, Tanya Bröring, Kourtney Treffers, Richelle van der Keijl, Rowie Jongeling, Zera Butter and Roos Court.  The roster includes six players who competed in the qualifying to the EuroCup led by double-figure scorers Broring, Loyce Bettonvil and Jill Bettonvil.

"It is going to be good, giving us a head start," Walker said. "Instead of going into practice in October not knowing anything, we will already have an idea of what practice is like and how hard we have to work."

Walker, fellow freshmen Mikayla Coombs, Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Lexi Gordon will be joined by transfers Batouly Camara and Azura Stevens to give UConn six players who did not suit up for them a season ago. It's hardly a coincidence that this is the team UConn coach Geno Auriemma has chosen to bring to Italy.

"You try to set your European trips because you either have a lot of players coming back and you just need to incorporate a few players or you have a lot of new faces who haven't played," Auriemma said. "In this case it is a little bit of both. We have a great nucleus returning and we have six new players, it has all the ingredients you are looking for when you are putting together a trip."

The team started to practice over the weekend as the NCAA allows one of these trips every four years giving the Huskies a jump start of preseason preparations.

"It will definitely help," sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "The earlier you can get in here, the more helpful you can be before October starts, just being able to build more chemistry. We had the summer (for workouts) but after being out here in a practice setting, going up and down floor, I think it will help."

Nurse is expected to join the team after the FIBA AmeriCup which wraps up tomorrow. Canada meets Brazil in the first semifinal today at 5:35 p.m. in Argentina followed by the Argentina-Puerto Rico semifinal. The winners not only advance to Sunday's 8:35 p.m. gold-medal game but also secure berths in the 2018 FIBA World Cup. A third spot will go to the winner of tomorrow's bronze-medal game.

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