The UConn women's team heads east Tuesday, but it's not your typical New England-area excursion to face, say, Providence or Boston College. Nope, they'll be traveling another 4,000 miles to Italy where the Huskies will play four exhibition games.
The trip has been in the works for months. And even though a stop in Greece was recently dropped from the itinerary, the experience should not only bring the team together in preparation for the 2011-12 season, coach Geno Auriemma will get his first look at newcomers Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Brianna Banks and Kiah Stokes (also known as the second-best recruiting class in the country).
For now, though, Auriemma is focused on Europe -- and not just the basketball.
"We should probably take them on a tour of the United States," he said, according to the Hartford Courant's Mike Anthony. A lot of these guys, if you showed them a map of the U.S., they could show you two states — the one they're in and the one they were born in. So for us to take them over there and say, this is the Vatican, this is the Coliseum … you hope they understand the significance of all that. And I think it's our job to [make sure of] that."
As for the hoops, Auriemma will be looking beyond the scores. "You're not necessarily judging them on wins and losses. Mainly, it's 'How competitive are we?' and 'Do we understand what we're trying to do?' … We're going over there to find out how much they know and how much they have to learn. And, obviously, you want to win. People say it doesn't matter if you win or lose. That's bull. It doesn't matter if you lose until you lose. Then it matters."
Regarding the much-heralded freshman class, Auriemma said "This [trip] is good for them because when we do get to October, they will be further ahead. But all three do what freshmen do. When they are in their little comfort zone and can do what they're good at, they're pretty good. When they step out of that comfort zone and they have to do something they didn't have to do in high school, they struggle."
We mentioned it last week, but as a coach these are good problems to have: too much talent, even if some of it is short on experience. It was the case with Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson last season, they got a ton of on-the-job training, and now, as sophomores, they're considered grizzled veterans. The cycle continues with Mosqueda-Lewis, Stokes and Banks and the European, ahem, vacation will only facilitate their progress.