The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

51° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Italy trip brings women’s basketball together

    The Arizona womens basketball team poses in Pisa near the Leaning Tower on May 21. During their two weeks in Italy, the Wildcats toured some of Italys most popular and historic destinations and went 5-0 against selected FIBA teams. (Julian Temblador/Arizona Athletics)
    The Arizona women’s basketball team poses in Pisa near the Leaning Tower on May 21. During their two weeks in Italy, the Wildcats toured some of Italy’s most popular and historic destinations and went 5-0 against selected FIBA teams. (Julian Temblador/Arizona Athletics)

    During the time off between the spring semester and the first summer session, the Arizona women’s basketball team had a first-hand educational experience more than 6,000 miles away from Tucson.

    The players learned about cultural differences, team chemistry and the game of basketball during their two-week trip to Italy May 12-26. Simply put, they learned a lot; it was their job.

    Before the trip, the team had dinner at Arizona head coach Joan Bonvicini’s house, where each player gave a five-minute presentation on a topic that Bonvicini assigned.

    “”When I take a team overseas, I try to get the players to educationally work on some different topics,”” said Bonvicini, who took a Wildcat team overseas for the fourth time. “”During the dinner … some read about their topics, and a few of them even had PowerPoint presentations.””

    While in Rome, Milan, Lake Como, Jesolo, Venice and Florence, the players wrote blogs telling of their experiences and what they had learned. The blogs were posted on www.arizonaathletics.com, along with pictures and game updates.

    The players learned about things they never

    knew before.

    Guard Marie McGee discovered that “”Vatican City is an independent country that governs itself within Rome,”” and center Suzy Bofia learned that “”one pound of cookies costs 40 Euros, which is (almost) $60 in American money.””

    But not everything was learned off the hardwood. The team learned about basketball on an international level, as well.

    The Wildcats played four 10-minute quarters – rather than two 20-minute halves – against five FIBA (International Basketball Association) teams, winning

    all five games.

    Although the Wildcats often traveled on a bus for more than two hours before each game and played before very sparse crowds, they won by an average of 35.6 points.

    “”We played well,”” Bonvicini said. “”Some of the teams weren’t really good, and some of them were.””

    Nine players went on the trip and seven played, with guard Jessica Arnold and center Beatrice Bofia sitting out due to injuries. Sophomore forward Rheya Neabors did not make the trip because “”she had some personal issues to take care of,”” Bonvicini said.

    Forward Amina Njonkou led the team with averages of 23.8 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, including tour-highs of 32 points and 11 rebounds against

    Virtus-Venezia.

    On May 16, the Wildcats escaped with a 80-78 win over the Marghera-Venezia Sernavimar Giants, as Njonkou scored on a breakaway layup as time expired in regulation.

    “”On the court, Amina was the most consistent,”” Bonvicini said. “”She really played well, to the highest level every game.””

    A 24-second shot clock and an eight-second backcourt violation clock, both used in the NBA rather than the college game, sped things up for the Wildcats. But those weren’t the most

    noticeable difference.

    “”Their post players were a lot more versatile than our post players,”” guard Ashley Whisonant said. “”They shot 3s, they handled the ball well and they were fast down the court. Our post players mainly play inside. They weren’t as physical as players in the United States, either. That could be because of their ages; some were in their 30s.””

    Even though they tried to speak some Italian, the language barrier was the most difficult to cope with, McGee said.

    “”It’s a lot different when somebody is right next to you, and they’re yelling a whole bunch of words that you don’t understand. In the last game, the referee got mad and was yelling at Coach B. in Italian.””

    The referee wound up walking off the court in frustration and did not return after a Wildcat player questioned his call on a hand-checking foul. Arizona sports information director Julian Temblador ended up refereeing for the remainder of the game dressed in khakis and a Polo shirt.

    All in all, the team was able to bond together, a trait that Bonvicini said will be beneficial for the rest of the summer and the 2007-2008 season.

    “”Two weeks in a foreign country,”” McGee said, “”with us being the only ones that speak fluent English – and not everyone on the team speaks fluent English – really strengthened our core.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search