The IU women's basketball team arrived in Rome on Aug. 3., and Coach Teri Moren wouldn't have been surprised if her team wanted to get to a hotel and catch some sleep.
The team had just spent nearly a full day traveling across the globe for their nine-day trip to Italy.
But, just the opposite of Moren's expectations happened.
As soon as the Hoosiers stepped out of the airport, they were ready to see whatever they could. A full day of sightseeing ensued before the team even reached its hotel.
“I was most impressed with our players, the young people, because they wanted to embrace that opportunity,” Moren said.
With only 11 players currently on the IU roster and just nine eligible to play this season, Moren will need her players to embrace the opportunities that are sure to come their way in the 2017-18 season.
Traveling to Italy together and playing three games against local teams was the perfect start to building bonds and camaraderie, Moren said. With just four returning players and seven newcomers, including five freshmen and two transfers who will sit this season out, there are a host of new faces in the IU program.
“They were already a close group just from watching them work this summer in the weight room, and it just added to the chemistry," Moren said. "It added to their closeness.”
Moren said the games IU played in Italy, which were three blowout wins for the Hoosiers, weren’t too important aside from how it was the first time her team played together in its current incarnation.
But she did note that the 10 practices IU was able to have leading up to the trip were crucial in laying the foundations for the Hoosiers’ new players.
Senior guard Tyra Buss, a two-time All-Big Ten First-Team selection, is expected to lead IU along with senior forward Amanda Cahill. The duo combined for 33 points per game last season, nearly half of the team's total scoring.
The only other returning Hoosiers are junior forward Kym Royster, who scored 4.2 points in 12 minutes per game, and sophomore wing Bre Wickware, who scored 1.2 points in 5 minutes per game.
But Buss said the five-member freshman class, which includes five-star recruit Jaelynn Penn, gets along well and should be able to fill the void left by the nine players who graduated, transferred or otherwise left the team.
With center Linsey Marchese, forward Alexis Johnson and three versatile guards in Penn, Bendu Yeaney and Keyanna Warthen, the freshmen can fill all five positions on the court.
“We just have different players that can do different things,” Buss said of the freshmen. “They’ve been working really hard, and I think they’re going to impress a lot of people.”
Yeaney, a 5-foot-10 guard from Oregon, drew praise from both Buss and Moren for her athleticism. During IU’s final game in Italy, Yeaney went out for the opening tipoff against a player five inches taller than her and won the jump, Moren said.
The team won’t begin official practices until early October, but the trip to Italy helped the Hoosiers lay the groundwork for the upcoming season.
Buss said she’s embracing the leadership role that she’s already been working on as the team’s point guard for the past few seasons. And Moren, who could understandably be worried about losing five seniors after last year, is looking forward to what her tight-knit squad can do on the court this season.
“I’m very optimistic about this group,” Moren said. “You can’t replace experience, but I think we’re more athletic than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here."
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