UConn looks forward to bonding, basketball during European trip
UConn’s first foreign trip in 20 years will be about more than just basketball.
It will be a valuable bonding experience for a team that has undergone some significant roster changes, losing three key players to the NBA and mixing six newcomers with six returning players.
It also will help the Huskies prepare for the difficult challenge of playing as the defending national champions this upcoming season.
During the nine-day trip, they’ll travel to France, Monaco and Spain, play three games and have plenty of time to take in the surroundings. They’ll receive an education on and off the court.
“We’re going to come out of Europe as a much better team, a more connected team…,” redshirt sophomore Alex Karaban said. “For most of us, it is the first time out of the country. Just really building team chemistry off the court is going to be the biggest key from the trip.”
Coach Dan Hurley talked about the upcoming trip after Saturday’s open practice at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford.
He’s looking forward to it but not the extended time away from home.
“I’m excited about just the bonding aspect of it,” Hurley said. “I’m a homebody. I don’t love long trips, unless it’s happening in March or April. I love those extended stays. … It will be nice just to get with the boys and to have lunch and just talk and really put that chemistry together with the group. It will be nice.
“And sightsee, too.”
Before the Huskies boarded a flight to Nice, France, on Wednesday, they had already reaped some benefits.
The NCAA allows college basketball teams on foreign trips to hold 10 practices prior to leaving campus.
Hurley took full advantage of those extra practices.
“We squeeze every second the NCAA allows us to use and we wish we had more time, because we love to work,” Hurley said. “We’re all about the work. The work has put us in this position to be winners.”
Of course, the trip will be more enjoyable if the Huskies play well and win.
The three games will provide Hurley an opportunity to try different combinations and evaluate his team.
“We’re still trying to figure out that part of it,” Hurley said of his approach on game days. “Do we sit a player or two per game? It’s definitely going to be a spread out the minutes type situation.”
Hurley’s biggest challenge may be just trying to relax.
That’s not easy for him to do.
“As the reigning NCAA champion, when we show up to play, there should be some level of quality to what we bring,” Hurley said. “Obviously, this is a new team. And then I just want to make the trip enjoyable for everybody. I’m an intense personality so I’ve got to find a way when I get on that long flight to dial it back so it’s an enjoyable experience for everybody.”
The trip schedule leaves plenty of time for sightseeing.
The Huskies will bus to Monaco after landing in France and then spend three days checking out the country. Their first game will be Saturday against Le Cannet Basket, a French team.
Next, they’ll fly to Barcelona on Sunday. They’ll tour the area and play two different Spanish Select teams in the city, one on Monday and the other Tuesday.
Then they’ll have free time until flying back home on Thursday, Aug. 10.
Newcomer Cam Spencer, a graduate transfer, is excited about the trip.
“It will be awesome,” Spencer said. I’ve never been on a European trip. You hear about the teams that go on those trips and the year that they have. They talk about the connectedness and guys getting closer to each other and the teams really building camaraderie on these trips. So I’m really looking forward to it.”
Prior to program’s first national championship season in 1999, UConn went on a 19-day trip to England and Israel in August 1998. The Huskies also traveled to London in November 2004, months after capturing the title in April.
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