Texas' head coach Karen Aston watches the action of their 98-46 victory over Houston Baptist. The Texas Women's basketball team played a matinee game against Houston Baptist Wednesday afternoon November 16, 2016 with hundreds of AISD elementary school students in attendance. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Women's Basketball

Texas mixes business with fun with Italian basketball trip

Posted August 10th, 2017

Story highlights
  • The team's 11-day trip will include games against top club teams from Italy, Germany and Holland.
  • The Horns also will be able to get some sight-seeing in; players have taken a course on Italian culture and history.
  • Suspended forward Joyner Holmes will not make the trip; Texas hopes to get looks at players who didn't see a lot of time last year.

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 Texas women’s basketball team leaves Friday for an 11-day vacation/business trip to Italy. The Longhorns’ itinerary includes three games against top-level club teams from Italy, Germany and Holland. There will be plenty of free time to sight-see, including a tour of the Vatican.

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“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 me. I’m an opera fan, and to be able to do that over there would be a pretty cool experience.”

Texas Longhorns’ Brooke McCarty Celebrates a turnover against Central Arkansas Friday, during the NCAA Women’s Tournament at the Erwin Center. Dustin Safranek FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Brooke McCarty, last season’s Big 12 player of the year, said the trip will serve as a “bonding experience” for a team that features three fresh faces — forward/guard Rellah Boothe, guard Chasity Patterson and shooting guard Destiny Littleton, all McDonald’s All-Americans.

It’ll be Aston’s first glimpse of a talent-packed team that will be saddled with heavy expectations when the season tips off Nov. 12 against Stetson. She said she’s eager to see how Texas’ younger players “mesh” with some veterans.

The Longhorns will be short-handed on the trip; Joyner Holmes, last season’s Big 12 freshman of the year, has been suspended for the fall semester because of a still-undisclosed university rules violation. Ariel Atkins, a senior guard, will join the team in Italy after she finishes competing for USA Basketball’s U-23 national team in Japan but will not play on this tour.

UT’s Joyner Holmes, left, gets past Baylor’s Khadijiah Cave in the second half at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday February 20, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Aston said the team will simply have to adjust to Holmes’ absence; she will miss the first 10 regular-season games, including non-conference matchups against Florida State and Tennessee.

“Any time you go through adversity, it’s tough. That’s why they call it adversity,” Aston said. “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.”

Sophomore Alecia Sutton will be making her second trip to Italy this summer. She and Holmes competed for USA Basketball’s U-19 team there last month.

Upon her return to Austin, Sutton’s 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,” Sutton said Thursday. “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 said she’s also eager to make a return trip to Venice on Aug. 17. To prepare for the trip, players took a course in Italian culture and history.

As for basketball, Aston said she will give ample minutes to newcomers and players who did not compete last spring. Among the players who should receive extensive looks are Jatarie White, a 6-4 junior forward who sat out last season after transferring from South Carolina, and Olamide Aborowa, another junior forward who provided a spark to the team late last season.

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