Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson says she’s most looking forward to one sight during her team’s exhibition trip to Italy from today through Aug. 19.
“Winning,” Henrickson said with a smile. “Winning four games, because I might not want to tour anywhere if we don’t win.”
Though the trip will include visits to historical landmarks like the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon in Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Henrickson most wants to see her young team establish a pace that it will keep for the rest of the season.
The Jayhawks, who will play four exhibition games during their 11-day excursion, will be forced to speed up their play because of a 24-second shot clock used in Europe.
“It’s how we want to play anyway: Get it up the floor, push in transition, and go make plays and not have to run a play,” Henrickson said. “ ... It’s probably really good for the freshmen to have to play that way out of the gate, because even if we go to a 30-second clock, we still want to play that way.”
The trip also comes at a convenient time for Henrickson, who has five freshmen on this year’s roster.
Kansas was allowed 10 practices before heading overseas.
During normal years, players would only be able to work out two hours a week for six weeks in individual drills before official practices started in October.
There have been a couple of times that Henrickson has had to re-write practice plans after realizing she was scheduling drills that her freshmen hadn’t learned yet.
“Bonnie, with new people, she’s patient,” KU junior guard Monica Engelman said. “She makes sure they get all the basics, so when we start going faster and the pace gets a little faster, they can get it down.
“But the freshmen are doing great. They’re holding their own, and they’re learning.”
KU also will benefit from an NCAA rule change, as before this season, freshmen were not allowed to participate in the preseason exhibition trips.
The shot clock won’t be the only difference during games in Italy.
KU also will play with a widened, trapezoid lane. The three-point line will be at 20 feet, 6 inches — the same length that the NCAA women are switching to next season.
Though Henrickson said she isn’t sure what the competition will be like, it won’t matter much, as the team won’t be scouting its opponents.
More than basketball, though, the coach said the outing would allow the players to have more time around each other.
“We only play four games,” Henrickson said, “so the rest of it, we’re tourists, and we’re tourists together.”
Engelman admitted she didn’t know a lot about Italy but still was eager to get there.
“We get to experience all the scenery and culture,” Engelman said. “It’s refreshing. It’s getting away from what you’re used to.”