Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz said Friday his Cardinals will take advantage of the newly opened border to Cuba for an upcoming foreign tour.
U of L, eligible for 10 days of practice and three games against Cuba’s Junior National Team, set the trip from Aug. 5-12.
“We thought it would be a great opportunity for our kids – an educational trip, not just a basketball trip,” Walz said.
The coach read a book about the Cuban Missile Crisis while in school and will require the same of his players before their venture.
Cuba and the United States re-established formal diplomatic relations last year, opening embassies in each others’ nations for the first time in more than half a century.
“I think it’s going to be a great learning experience,” said Cortnee Walton, a junior forward who anticipates taking part in service projects in Cuba as well. “I love history, so I know why we weren’t allowed to go there, but I think a lot of my teammates didn’t even know we weren’t allowed to go.”
The NCAA allows a foreign trip once every four years. Walz last took his team to Canada in August of 2011, stopping along the way at the Oregon reservation where former Cardinals Shoni and Jude Schimmel grew up.
A trip to Cuba means limited travel, with the flight from Florida less than an hour. The Cardinals will stay in the Eastern Timezone, too.
“It’s great timing,” Walz said, “which is why we did it.”
The 10th-ranked Cardinals, who locked up the No. 2 see in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with Thursday’s rout of No. 17 Miami, return their entire roster next season. They’ll also add the nation’s No. 6 recruiting class, including McDonald’s All Americans Ciera Johnson and Kylee Shook.
“We’re really focused on our team now, but thinking about the people we can add for next year is exciting because a lot of our starters are playing a ton of minutes,” Walton said. “When some of the starters come out, there’s a little bit of a drop off just because we don’t have the experience. With another year under our belt, our team’s going to be a lot stronger.
“It’s kind of scary to think about how good we are, and that we can be even better.”
Jonathan Lintner, Courier Journal