Dayton women’s basketball coach Jim Jabir is taking the Flyers on an exhibition tour of Italy, visiting Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.
They’ll also play three games on their eight-day trip, which started Thursday, but he’s not worried about their record.
“When you think about where we’re going, most Americans will never get a chance to do that,” he said. “I’m not sure how many of our kids will ever get on a plane and go to Europe. When you think about the Italian culture and how old it is, it’s pretty amazing. To be able to spend that time there is remarkable. We’re going to be walking where Caesar walked.”
The Flyers plan to stop at the Vatican as well as other popular tourist sights.
“We’re excited to have the kids spend that much time together and building some bonds and some chemistry and developing an appreciation for each other,” Jabir said. “I know from past trips, being in a foreign land and not speaking the language, you have to rely on each other more.”
The Flyers have to replace only one starter from a team that finished 28-3 and was ranked 16th in the final USA Today coaches poll. They return All-Atlantic 10 picks Andrea Hoover and Ally Malott, and Jabir signed the best recruiting class in program history.
Two late additions — 6-foot-5 Canadian center Saicha Grant-Allen and junior-college point guard Tiffany Johnson — joined Andrijana Cvitkovic, Celeste Edwards and Christy Macioce to give the Flyers the 20th-best class in the nation, according to All-Star Girls Report.
Johnson was a Philadelphia prep star and briefly attended Drexel before transferring to Louisburg College in North Carolina and leading the team to the Division II JUCO national title.
Grant-Allen, who is the only current player not making the trip (she’s taking care of some academic issues), had more than 40 scholarship offers and picked the Flyers over Syracuse, Nebraska and South Florida. She’s been a stalwart for the Canadian junior national teams the last few years.
The NCAA allows teams to take foreign trips every four years — Jabir said the Flyers’ last excursion was to Eastern Europe about eight years ago — and one of the perks is getting 10 formal practices before departing.
“I think we learned a lot about our team and could see what we have to fix and what we’re good at,” Jabir said. “Playing three games over there, it’s an important aspect of it, but I don’t even know what level of competition we’ll be playing. But it’ll be good to get out there and chase some people.”