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Gophers women’s basketball goes global on foreign tour

The Gophers women’s basketball team will be headed to Croatia and Greece in August for a foreign tour.
Graphic by Ava Weinreis
The games will be spread over six days, starting on Aug. 19.

Before sophomore Mara Braun returned home from representing Team USA in a 3-on-3 tournament in China, head coach for Gophers women’s basketball Dawn Plitzuweit announced June 28 the team would be taking a foreign tour beginning Aug. 1.

The five-city trip overseas includes stops in Athens, Greece and four other locations in Croatia: Split, Dubrovnik, Ston and the Island of Solta. The foreign excursion is the first for the program since 2018 when the team traveled to Italy and will serve as an additional opportunity to build team chemistry before the regular season. 

Summer workouts are ramping up for the Gophers and Plitzuweit said she is in the process of getting to know how her team plays together. The summer practices and the foreign tour will also provide chances for players to build relationships off the court.

“The next probably two months are going to be really good for us to spend time together outside of basketball,” Plitzuweit said.

The Maroon and Gold will play in three exhibition contests while on their tour. The first game will occur on Saturday, Aug. 19, against the Split Select at 6:30 p.m. local time in Split, Croatia (11:30 a.m. CST). 

The second game will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 23, against the Dubrovnik Select, at 7 p.m. local time in Dubrovnik (noon CST). The third and final game will be on Friday, Aug. 25, against the Athens Select in Athens at 7 p.m. local time (11 a.m. CST). 

Maggie Czinano, a junior on the team, said the playing opportunity will help the team in figuring out each other’s tendencies on the court before the regular season begins.

“Just understanding how each other likes to play,” said Czinano on how the tour will prepare the team for competition this upcoming season. “More so not really looking at our competition, but how to play with each other.”

The Gophers are allotted 10 extra practices this year due to their foreign tour, giving the team more time as they develop a dynamic.

“We’ll know more of what to expect and how to build it,” Plitzuweit said. “Right now we’re building the base.”

The tour will provide the young Gophers team — six true freshmen, two transfers and one redshirt freshman — the opportunity to see what it is like to play together in a game setting.

“I think that is going to give us a little bit of confidence under our belt,” Czinano said. 

Sophomores Braun (15.6 points per game), Mallory Heyer (10.4) and Amaya Battle (9.0) are among the team’s top returning scorers. The three, along with Czinano and Niamya Holloway, are the only returning members of the team.

Holloway missed the entire 2022-23 season due to injury. Plitzuweit said she is “very close” to returning to full go with the team and will hopefully be ready by the time the Gophers travel overseas.

Right now, Plitzuweit said she is “making sure we’re being patient but also prepping her and getting her ready.”

Braun recently returned from her international trip playing as a representative for Team USA in the 2023 FIBA 3×3 U21 Nations League. She helped Team USA reach the Asia-Pacific conference title and earned a berth to the league final on Sept. 13-15 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. 

“It was a crazy experience,” Braun said. “The playing was super fun, super fast, just a lot to adjust to.”

Braun said the quickness of 3-on-3 play along with the 12-second shot clock helped her develop her quickness on the court.

“You have to play with a different type of pace, but you also have to be able to read your defenders,” Braun said. “I think that really helped broaden my IQ and I hope to bring a lot of things back to the team.”

The Gophers have three games scheduled overseas, leaving a lot of time for bonding for the young team.

“We have a lot of time there just as a team with our coaches and especially with the new staff. It’s just a really good time for us to become closer,” Braun said.

The team will not only have the opportunity to take in the cultural experience of each of the five cities, but also to participate in youth clinics and community service while on the tour. 

“I know we’re all super excited about it,” Czinano said. “Those are memories you’re going to have for a lifetime.”

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