Basketball secondary for Arkansas women on upcoming Italy tour

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: April 11, 2018 at 4:16 p.m. - Updated: April 11, 2018 at 4:23 p.m.
Arkansas women's basketball coach Mike Neighbors following the Razorbacks' 73-72 win against Ole Miss on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 in Bud Walton Arena.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas women's basketball coach Mike Neighbors following the Razorbacks' 73-72 win against Ole Miss on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 in Bud Walton Arena.

— Basketball afforded Arkansas women's basketball coach Mike Neighbors his first opportunity to explore foreign countries.

Many of his current players and newcomers will experience various cultures overseas for the first time in August. Neighbors, at Arkansas' end-of-season basketball banquet on Tuesday, announced the Razorbacks will travel to Italy for a 10-day trip at summer's end.

The foreign tour, which the NCAA allows once every four years to college basketball programs, will include stops in Naples, Rome, Florence and Lake Como. The Razorbacks are scheduled to face three international teams while overseas.

Neighbors credited athletic director Hunter Yurachek for setting the wheels in motion to make the trip.

"It’s not something every program has the resources to do," Neighbors told WholeHogSports Wednesday. "That's a huge part of it. He got in, got settled and made the presentation.

"For most of these kids, basketball is a certain vehicle that allows them to go to places they’ve never been and may never get to experience in their lifetime, so I’m excited we get to take it."

Neighbors informed his players of the trip late in the 2017-18 season and is eager not only for the competition Arkansas will face, but the team bonding and cultural diversity that will come with such a trip.

It will be the first time out of the country for 12 of his 14 players. Basketball will become secondary once surrounded by the country's history, he said.

"We’ll play some games while we’re over there," he said, "but to see some of the places they see in the movies, in documentaries and studied about, I think it’s important we go to places like that.

"We’ve got four new kids coming in along with our returners and you hope it brings some cohesiveness. Plus, it allows us 10 extra practice days, so that carries significant value."

Neighbors will get the chance to see guards Chelsea Dungee and A’Tyanna Gaulden, who transferred from Oklahoma and Florida State, respectively, mesh with rising senior Malica Monk, junior Jailyn Mason and other playmakers.

Dungee and Gaulden, by all accounts, impressed in practices throughout last season.

Neighbors likens Dungee's game to that of Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians - a guard who can score at the rim, handle the ball and shoot the 3 with efficiency. Dungee is a 5-tool player, he added.

Gaulden, a top 25 national recruit out of Americus Sumter High School in Georgia, is a pinball and penetrate-and-pitch type guard who's difficult to keep in front.

"I like to say Malica is a points guard. (Gaulden) is more of a true point guard," Neighbors said. "She's looking to penetrate then make the right read. Incredibly fast, strong and confident. She fits us about as well as any guard we could ask for.

"(Jaylen) Barford and (Daryl) Macon was the comparison, and I'm OK with that because those guys were certainly a pretty good tandem."

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