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Arizona Women's Basketball Tour of Italy Recap
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 05, 2007
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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The University of Arizona women’s basketball team embarked on a two-week excursion to Italy from May 12-26, and gained a world of experience both on and off the basketball court. The two-week tour included five games against FIBA teams and trips to some of Italy’s most popular and historic destinations.


One of the Wildcats’ main objectives of the trip was to improve on the court as a team in preparation for next season through real-game competition.  Although Arizona was limited to a roster of seven players, and often traveled on a bus for more than two hours before each game to reach the gym, the Wildcats posted a perfect 5-0 record against its FIBA competition.  UA won its five games by an average of 35.6 points. 


Arizona opened the trip with an 82-46 win over Cantina Sociale Di Broni on May 15.  The Wildcats overcame a 10-point first quarter deficit to run away to a blowout win.  The next day, the UA escaped with a thrilling 80-78 win over the Marghera-Venezia Sernavimar Giants on a break-away layup by forward Amina Njonkou as time expired in regulation.


In the final three games of the tour, Arizona rolled to blowout victories, including a 106-25 win over Virtus-Venezia on May 18, and an 87-41 win over S.R.L. Iemmeci Orvieto on May 23.  In the final game of the tour on May 24, Arizona posted a 71-48 victory over Pomezia, using a 51-28 run through the final three quarters to pull away.


Individually for the Wildcats, Njonkou led the team by averaging 23.8 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, including tour highs of 32 points and 11 rebounds against Virtus-Venezia.  Point guard Ashley Whisonant averaged 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists, and forward Rhaya Neabors posted 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in five games.


Guard Malia O’Neal averaged 6.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game, and center Suzy Bofia posted averages of 11.4 points and 11.8 rebounds a contest.  Guard Marie McGee chipped in with 7.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 4.4 steals a game, and forward Shannon Hobson averaged 5.4 points and 5.8 rebounds over the five-game tour.


Off the court, Arizona went on a 12-day tour of Italy’s sights and scenery which began in Milan and ended in Rome. The trip started on May 12 with an 18-hour flight from Phoenix to London, and a flight from London into Milan.


The first half of Arizona’s trip included stops at Lake Como, a walking tour of Milan, and a trip to Bardolino, a small lake-side town to visit relatives of head coach Joan Bonvicini for lunch. 


Some of the notable sites the Wildcats saw included the small towns and multi-million dollar homes on Lake Como, with a visit to the town of Bellagio, a name better known in the United States as a casino in Las Vegas.  In Milan, the Wildcats visited Castello Sforzesco, a castle built in the 19th century, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Duomo of Milan.


From Milan, the Wildcats traveled to Jesolo, a beach-front resort community on the Adriatic Sea.  From Jesolo, Arizona traveled to the world-famous city of Venice and the island of Murano.  In Venice, the Wildcats toured the island city, making stops in Saint Marco’s Square, the Rialto Bridge, and of course making time for a gondola ride on the Grand Canal.  In Murano, the Cats found out firsthand why the island is famous for glass making.


Arizona’s next stop was in Verona, where the Wildcats paid visits to Juliet’s balcony at Villa Capelletti, the Arena of Verona, and the Piazza delle Erbe.


From Verona, Arizona took a five-hour bus ride to the tranquil town of Montecatini, a small countryside hideaway in Tuscany.  From Montecatini, the Wildcats traveled to Pisa to view the famous Leaning Tower as well as the other monuments of town.


Next up for Arizona was a visit to Florence, the capital city of Tuscany and one of the most historic and important cities in Italy.  In Florence, the Wildcats shopped till they dropped, and made stops at the Duomo of Florence, the Academia to see Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the River Arno.


Arizona’s last stop was in the city of Rome.  When in Rome, the Wildcats visited the Vatican City, viewing the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint Peter’s Square.  The Wildcats final day in Rome included a tour of the ancient Roman Forum and the famous Roman Coliseum, with stops at the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.


From Rome, Arizona departed back home via London and Phoenix and arrived in Tucson after a 19-hour day of travel late night on May 26.


With success on the court and an unforgettable visit to some of Italy’s most famous places and attractions, the Arizona women’s basketball bonded as a group and is ready to use its experience into making the 2007-08 season a memorable one.
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