Women’s basketball returners build relationships in Europe

Montmartre in Paris, France was one of many places that the 2016-17 Roger Williams University women’s basketball team toured in their offseason trip across Europe.

The shot clock wound down but the energy remained steady. The girls ripped their bags from the gym after a long game and as the clock struck 11:50 p.m., their day was just getting exciting.

They ran from the court to their next destination, where green grass waited to be their seats for the next aweing experience on their trip around Europe. The glow from the Eiffel Tower shined on their faces to match the light in their eyes.

“It was just a surreal experience,” senior captain Stephanie Bramante said.

It had been four years since Head Coach Kelly Thompson was able to take Roger Williams’ women’s basketball team abroad, and she knew the trip was long overdue. The last roster explored the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. This year’s returning seven — and two recent graduates — were able to experience Paris, Normandy, Amsterdam, and Bruges over 10 days this past summer.

“It was action-packed,” Thompson said. “If you tried to do it on your own, you couldn’t possibly do it all in that amount of time.”

One of the reasons the trip was so successful, according to Thompson, was planning it with the company, Go Play Sports. Recently retired RWU men’s soccer coach Jim Cooke now works for the company and encouraged Thompson to use their expertise.

Thompson was extremely pleased and is eager to work with them again in the future.

Some of the other sights the team enjoyed were the Palace of Versailles, American Cemetery, and Omaha Beach in Normandy.

“It was like all of the things you see in history books that I never thought I would actually be able to see,” said Bramante.

“It put a lot of things in perspective,” said senior captain Anna Walther.

Coach Thompson keeps one of her souvenirs — a bottle of Omaha Beach sand — on her desk every day as a reminder of how eye-opening the team’s experience was.

For Walther, the new food was another advantage to the trip.

Being in a new place, the girls needed something to remind them of home. Aside from the games they were able to play, they attended a technique clinic in Amsterdam which gave them a chance to try new things.

“Some teams don’t speak English and sometimes the rules are different,” Thompson said.

Many of the kids at the clinic only spoke Dutch. At first, this was a tough adjustment for RWU, but they soon realized that their form of communication was a lot closer than they thought.

“Even the language barrier didn’t matter because they knew basketball and that’s how we would communicate with them,” Bramante said.

The learning experience for Walther came from the rule changes and seeing different levels of competition. Overseas, the team witnessed a different style of play. Similar to some of their competitors at home, the games were very physical. This gave the team a chance to work on adapting to a tougher defense in their regular season when the game results count.

According to Walther, the teams were fast and it helped the returners learn how to settle against them, which is something they need to get the freshmen on board with.

“You still have to maintain your basketball and that’s a big thing for us this season,” Walther said. “We just have to play our game.”

The team fundraised every cost of the trip and was extremely appreciative of the experience. According to the captains, they still look back on their pictures and think about how much they want to return to Europe one day.

For them, it was a fun way to build relationships and learn different languages. Everyone tried to immerse themselves into the culture.

With their upcoming tournament at Tufts starting Friday, the team is eager to try the skills they learned in a real-game situation against one of their new challenging additions to this year’s schedule.

“It was just the trip of a lifetime,” Bramante said.

“In years to come we can reflect on this trip and everything that we got out of it,” Walther said. “We’re always going to be able to remember that.”