Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Arkansas preparing for Italy trip
Arkansas coach Tom Collen watches during the first half against South Carolina Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, in Bud Walton Arena.
FAYETTEVILLE Like its male counterpart a year ago, the Arkansas women's basketball team will take an exhibition trip to Europe next month.
The Razorbacks will play three games in Italy beginning Aug. 10. According to NCAA rules, teams can take international exhibition trips once every four years.
“Our players and staff are really excited about the cultural opportunities on this trip,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “A well-rounded educational experience for our student-athletes will help them grow as people and better prepare them for their future endeavors.”
As part of the trip, Arkansas' players will sightsee prior to their games in Rome, Florence and Como. They will also take a day trip to Switzerland.
Arkansas finished last season 20-13, losing in the second round of the WNIT. The Razorbacks are looking to replace departed leading scorers Sarah Watkins (12.8 points per game) and Quistelle Williams (10.2).
The trip will offer Collen a look at a freshman class ranked No. 20 nationally by ESPN. Among the additions is Jessica Jackson, a 6-foot-3 wing from Jacksonville rated as the No. 17 overall prospect in last year's senior class by ESPN.
“It will be great for our team in terms of growth both on and off the floor,” Collen said. “We have a very young team. They will benefit on the floor from the extra 10 days of practice before we leave in addition to the three games we will play against veteran teams. I also believe we can grow as a team off the floor. Hopefully that will help us become a more cohesive unit when the season begins and it will make up for our lack of experience in years.”