Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery to help freshen up your routine. For Nevada women’s basketball, it just took a 5,598-mile journey to Spain to give them that breath of fresh air.
The team took a nine-day excursion across the country of Spain, competing against local teams and learning about the Spanish culture around them.
To afford the trip, the team had to fundraise $20,000. The $20,000 went to covering everything from airfare and accommodations to meals and excursions for the team.
Senior Da’Ja Hamilton reflected on the team’s nine-day trip just prior to the start of the season.
“It was really cool just to connect as a team,” she said. “We really bonded and played well in the games so it was a fun experience.”
While the team was in Spain, they competed in a series of exhibition matches. Extra matches, means extra reps and extra reps, typically translates to success on the court. Seeing as how the team jumped out to its best start since the 2010-11 season, the extra reps seem to have paid off.
Head coach Amanda Levens recognizes the benefits that the extra time on the court gave to her squad.
“I’m really thankful for the trip to Spain,” Levens said. “We were able to get extra practices and extra games. We got work through some things that I think we’d be working through this month had we not had that trip.”
Levens is particularly grateful for the time it gave her younger members to develop, players like freshman Dom Phillips.
“She played her best basketball at Nevada that summer during our last game in Spain,” Levens said. “Without that game, it may take her longer to get comfortable here. How she’s played with a lot of confidence and looked like she had fun out there.”
Phillips comes to Nevada from Millennium High School in Goodyear, Ariz. Through five games on the year, Philips is averaging 11.8 minutes per game on the court. Philips has scored 34 total points, which ranks in at fourth on the team.
The extra playtime prior to the season seems to have paid off for Phillips. With three years left of eligibility, there is no doubt she will develop into a key contributor for the Pack.
Although the team did compete in matches while in Spain, it wasn’t the sole focus of the trip. While in Spain, the team participated in a variety of activities. From sightseeing, to the sampling of local delicacies, to educational tours. The trip was just as much a team bonding experience as it was an educational one.
While in Spain, the team went to various historical cities, such as Valencia and Madrid. On the featured events of the trip came a tour of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral or the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia.
The cathedral dates back to the late 1800s and is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although the extra practices and cultural/educational experiences were the main driving force for going on an international trip, they weren’t the sole reason. The opportunity to build a strong foundation of camaraderie between players and coaches was also key.
Assistant coach Ashley Elliot reflected on how the trip helped build camaraderie among the team.
“It was amazing. We had so many experiences with one another,” Elliot said. “We got to go on a boat trip out into the middle of the Mediterranean [Sea] and all the girls jumped off into the water…it was amazing.”
Elliot also spoke on the effects the trip had on the coaching staff, as well as the players.
“More of it was getting to know one another and getting to know our team and getting to build those relationships early on,” she said. “We have so many newcomers, we didn’t have that relationship before they got here and we were able to build that while we were in Spain.”
The trip was no doubt a valuable experience to expand as a team. Nevada women’s basketball will be eligible to go on another trip after the next four seasons have concluded, including this one.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.