August 24, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
After returning from her team's 10-day, three-game trip in Italy, K-State women's basketball coach Deb Patterson said she has a few words of advice for everyone she meets: "Go visit Italy."
As a matter of fact, after chatting about the sites, sounds, history and food - pasta, pizza, gelato - she almost had me rushing home, shouting, "Arrivederci!" (goodbye) and heading across the Atlantic for an Italian getaway.
But trying to describe the trip wasn't exactly easy for Patterson as she explained there are just not enough words to describe how magnificent the country really is.
However, after using words like "breathtaking," "amazing," "beautiful" and "incredible" - just to name a few - she did a phenomenal job of painting a picture of her team's once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It's absolutely impossible to pick a favorite site," Patterson said with a smile simply beaming as she began talking about traveling through Italy. "It was a breathtaking experience, city by city. There are not enough adjectives to describe the uniqueness of every city we landed in.
"Venice had its own character, Pisa was phenomenal, the cathedral in Florence was absolutely astounding," Patterson said. "Rome, you could spend three weeks in Rome and just begin to touch everything there is there. Lake Como had a distinct, mellow, beautiful, friendly, warm tempo and pace to it. Verona had a mini coliseum that no one would have known about in our travel party until we saw it that afternoon. In the Vatican, St. Peter's Square, the Basilica there and the Sistine Chapel is just beyond your ability to describe, and to consider the works and the masterpieces there!
"We had the opportunity to tour where the statue of David was, and the statue itself and the hundreds of other works of art, I just cannot explain the feeling you get about it. It's another world and another level of artistry and magnificence. There is not going to be a day in my life that I don't tell someone, 'Go visit Italy.' It was life changing for me."
Along with the life-changing experience found at all the incredible sites on the tour, the Wildcats had the opportunity to come together on the court before the 2013-14 season tips off. Bringing in six new freshmen and having two players coming off of redshirt seasons due to injury last year, the young 2013-14 roster had an opportunity to bond that, without the trip, would have been unattainable.
The Wildcats went 3-0 during the trip, overwhelming the Italy All-Stars, the Vicenza All-Stars and ASD Bull Basket.
"I think the most significant aspect of the competition was, though it was low-level competition, it provided a framework for our young players to understand what it's like to be on edge for a game," Patterson said. "It gave our staff a great opportunity to assess areas of need, and allowed us to assess where each individual player was at in game-like situations. While the competition playing level was low, it still required execution. It was phenomenal to have the opportunity, priceless I think, to see those players in action and for them to have to compete with something on the line."
Along with the large amount of in-game experience K-State was given in Italy, Patterson said the trip will also help her as a coach as she plans to use the experiences and lessons learned about the rich Italian history on the court.
"There's no question I'll be relating the achievements and the passion and the long-term selfless commitment to greatness that these people were a part of," Patterson explained. "It's interesting to compare the mindset of that generation to the mindset of our generation - the contrast between then and now and the perspective that you gain from those generations of people. I think it is quite valuable and I'll be reiterating it 100 times, not just moving through this particular season, but further on as well."
With the travel, the bonding experience, the playing time and the a new perspective, the K-State women's basketball program is ready to take on the 2013-14 season with a vengeance, and in the end, Patterson said she is grateful to Kansas State University for giving her team an opportunity that they will hold dear for the rest of their lives.
"I appreciate so much the life-changing opportunity that Kansas State afforded these young people," Patterson said. "This was not just about going to play basketball games. This opportunity that we were afforded through Kansas State University was like the opportunity to study abroad, to live a life abroad. When you're involved with athletics, you can't do that - you're committed to 12-months a year being a student-athlete.
"This gave them a potential life-impacting and life-changing experience for 10 days. That's special. That's priceless and it's another great thing about Kansas State Athletics."