‘There is no way to replicate this at home’: Six women’s college basketball teams share memories, lessons from foreign tours

Note: This is a list of the teams I spoke with about their foreign tours this summer. It is not a comprehensive list of all teams taking foreign tours in 2019.
Note: This is a list of the teams I spoke with about their foreign tours this summer. It is not a comprehensive list of all teams taking foreign tours in 2019. /
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Tennessee (The Netherlands, Belgium, and France)

The Eiffel Tower was the destination that Jackson Harper, the five-year-old son of Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper, was most looking forward to on the Lady Vols’ 10-day, three-country tour. According to Mom, it delivered: “The Eiffel Tower is enormous … If you ask Jackson, he will tell you [it was] the best part about the trip … Pictures do not do it justice.” Redshirt senior Lou Brown shared that the team got to see Paris at night from the top of the tower and also visited the Louvre.

The anticipation was high for Paris, but Harper and Brown also spoke glowingly about Belgium. Brown said the city of Ghent was a surprise to her and her teammates: “Driving into Ghent, it seemed very small and almost abandoned with old buildings. But when we checked into the hotel and walked out the back door, all of our jaws dropped at how amazing it was.” The group also visited Bruges, and Harper revealed that the city’s chocolate and waffles were highlights alongside its architecture and history.

This season, Harper will add a new chapter to her own history at Tennessee. She was a three-time national champion as a player at Tennessee and was hired as the head coach in April to help the Lady Vols return to that level. In year one, “we want to establish our culture and be the best team that we can be,” Harper said. “To do that, we have a lot of work to do, but this European trip was the first step.”

In their three games overseas, the Lady Vols won by margins of 52, 42, and 50 points. Harper wishes the games had been more competitive, but the coaches and players alike still learned a lot from them. “The most valuable part of the trip was getting to play games in live situations with our new coaches,” Brown said. The team established a game-day routine and adjusted to hearing Harper’s voice on the sidelines. Brown added, “We really got the picture of how Coach Harper wants us to play and what’s going to be expected from us this season.”

Harper said after the trip that she is still figuring out her rotation, but the trip did help develop the team’s chemistry and leadership. “In huddles, we were able to hear [Rennia Davis’s] voice,” Harper told UT Sports. “I think the players naturally look to her because she’s the most experienced.” Harper also praised sophomore Jazmine Massengill for having “a very good positive voice in huddles” and being coachable. And for Brown, who missed all of last season with a knee injury after transferring from Washington State, the trip represented her first games in a Lady Vols uniform. “I really struggled [last season],” she told High Post Hoops. “That is going to make playing this year so much sweeter.”

The Lady Vols soaked up the cultures that surrounded them in each of their stops, but they also brought bits of their own culture to Europe. Brown, a native of Australia, said that the mostly-U.S.-born team “definitely” had moments of culture shock: “The funniest one was our team’s reaction when they found out the Hard Rock Cafe in Amsterdam didn’t know what ranch dressing was.” She also revealed that Jackson Harper attempted to organize a Marvel battle at the Eiffel Tower and assigned each person in the travel party a superhero or supervillain. The battle never materialized, but Marvel might be a recurring theme this season. Brown explained, “I was the first Australian Marvel, named Roo girl, with superpowers of a kangaroo. That is something that’s probably going to stick!”

Brown summed up the trip by saying, “There is a lot about this trip I’ll always remember. Sometimes, trips like this, it’s being able to experience it all together with the people closest to you in Tennessee. That was special.” The Lady Vols hope it precipitates a special season on the court, as Marvel battles give way to non-conference battles and drives through Europe are replaced with SEC road trips to Kentucky and South Carolina.