‘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. /
6 of 8

George Mason (Italy)

As the plane that would take the George Mason women’s basketball team to Italy started taxiing out of Washington, DC, freshman Jazmyn Doster began to panic. “Before this trip I had never stepped inside an airport, let alone [an] airplane,” she wrote on the team’s travel blog. But “just when I thought I couldn’t handle it anymore [senior] Jacy [Bolton] took my hand and started to calm me down.”

That was one of many examples players cited of how they supported each other on and off the court during the trip. Freshman Rachel Balzer wrote that the team’s chemistry was already noticeably improved between the first and third games overseas, and Bolton told High Post Hoops, “We learned so much off the court that it helped us grow as people and teammates. This new bond then carried to the court.”

George Mason’s itinerary featured games against the University of Ottawa; Slammers Select, a team comprised of American, Canadian, and German players; and TK Hannover, a professional team based in Germany. Mason head coach Nyla Milleson described the games as “very competitive and very physical,” and several of her players found it eye-opening to play against different styles. Sophomore Devyn Wilson wrote, “It was also neat to see that what you do is not the only way; there are always other people who do it differently. To be able to see a different way the sport is played will help us build on the way we play and get better.” Milleson started every player at least once across the three games and said she was proud of her team’s toughness and resilience. One highlight came against Slammers Select, as freshman Tamia Lawhorne hit a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter.

Off the court, the Patriots visited Rome, Venice, Siena, Lake Como, and the Vicenza U.S. Army base. They even took in the Ferrari museum, which was a highlight for senior Alexsis Grate. Balzer wrote, “It was fun trying to pick up a few Italian words, trying different foods, and finding [our] way around.” Bolton particularly loved the team’s boat tour from Lake Como to the town of Bellagio, calling Bellagio “a town you would find in the movies.” She added, “On the boat, I was just in awe of the beauty that was around me. … [Throughout the trip,] the beauty and architecture of each city blew me away.”

Bolton and her teammates also came to appreciate some of the cultural differences between Italy and the United States, including the slower pace of life in Italy. Bolton wrote, “In the U.S., people are always trying to get from place to place … Italy taught me to live in the moment. … I realized how this impatient living has [led] me to miss some beautiful moments.”

A few of the most meaningful moments on the trip had one common feature: the “Patriots in Italy” t-shirts that the team brought overseas. Bolton noted that wearing the shirts led to multiple interactions with Mason fans who spotted them and wanted to say hello. Freshman Rosie Schweizer traded a t-shirt to the owner of a restaurant in Siena after the team enjoyed a food tasting there, and the team also gave out t-shirts on the Vicenza army base. That visit was a homecoming for freshman Jordan Wakefield, whose family had previously lived there for a few years, and Wakefield’s parents gave the team a tour of the base.

Milleson called the trip “priceless” in terms of its impact on her players on and off the court. On the court, the Patriots’ expectations are high and have only increased based on the growth they showed in just 10 days in Europe. “Our goals are to compete at the highest level in the Atlantic 10 conference and to have incredible team chemistry,” Milleson told High Post Hoops. “… This trip is a building block towards those goals.” Off the court, the players constantly leaned on their teammates as they faced new experiences, from tasting unfamiliar foods to weathering their first flights. Senior Allie McCool summed it up by saying, “Italy was by far the greatest experience I have ever had.”