Texas mixes business with fun with Italian basketball trip

Karen Aston is looking forward to a trip filled with pasta, gelato and a few glasses of Italy’s finest wine.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

The University of Texas women’s basketball team on Friday will embark on an 11-day vacation/business trip to Italy. The itinerary includes three games against top-level club teams from Germany, Holland and Italy. There will be plenty of free time to visit Italian monuments, included a tour of the Vatican.

“This is an opportunity for the players to learn about their history,” Aston said. “I’m a history buff and a sucker for beautiful things. (Former Longhorn) Andrea Lloyd, who has Italian citizenship from having played there, is already there and she wrote me and asked if I want to go to the opera. I was like, you have to be kidding met. I’m an opera fan and to be able to do that over there would be a pretty cool experience.”

Big 12 Player of the Year Brooke McCarty said the trip will serve as a “bonding experience” for a team that features three fresh faces – McDonald’s All-Americans Rellah Boothe, Chasity Patterson and Destiny Littleton.

This will be Aston’s first glimpse of a talent-packed basketball team that will be saddled with heavy expectations when the season tips off Nov. 12 against Stetson.

The coach said she is eager to see how the younger players “mesh” with some veterans. The Longhorns will be short-handed because Big 12 Freshman of the Year Joyner Holmes has been suspended for the fall semester for an undisclosed university rules violation. Senior Ariel Atkins will join the team in Italy after competing with the USA Basketball U-23 national team in Japan, but will not play on this tour.

Sophomore Alecia Sutton will be making her second trip to Italy this summer. She and Holmes competed for the USA Basketball U-19 team in July.

Upon her return to Austin, her Longhorn teammates quizzed her on Italian cuisine.

“I didn’t branch out on the food, basically eating pasta and pizza every day, but you can’t go wrong with that,” she said after a Thursday morning workout. “I’m a big chicken Alfredo person but they don’t have Alfredo sauce there. It’s all red sauce, so it was hard for me.”

Sutton is also eager for a return trip to Venice on Aug. 17.

To prepare for the trip, players took a course in Italian culture and history from the university department of French and Italian.

As for basketball, Aston said she will give ample playing minutes to newcomers and players who did not compete last spring. Among the players who should receive extensive playing time are South Carolina transfer forward Jatarie White, who sat out last season, and Olamide Aborowa, who sparked the team late in the year.

Aston said the team will adjust to the absence of Holmes, who will miss the first 10 regular-season games.

“Anytime you go through adversity, it’s tough,” the coach said. “That’s why they call it adversity. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Joyner wants to be at Texas really badly. There is no doubt that through adversity we will become a better basketball team. … There are silver linings with everything.”




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