Two Decades Later, Ethridge Returns to Italy
So now, as her team has embarked on its three-game, 10-day trip overseas, she will be experiencing the culture through a completely different lens.
"I've been to Rome, I've seen the tower of Pisa and I've seen the cathedral in Florence we are going to," Ethridge said before the team left on August 9, "so it's going to bring back great memories. It's just amazing that time has flown and that 20 years ago I was there, but as much as I enjoy thinking about the memories that I'll think back on, I'm really much more excited about being able to experience the next 10 days with this team."
Ethridge has a rich history as a former basketball player and after playing collegiately at the University of Texas from 1982-86. She helped Team USA to capture gold in the 1988 Olympics followed by a year playing in Modena, Italy, for the Italian Professional League from 1989-90.
In Modena, Ethridge was teammates with Women's Basketball Hall of Famer and current Connecticut Suns head coach Anne Donovan. The two were the only Americans on the team, and despite walking to the team's owner's house every day for Italian lessons, the language barrier wasn't always easy for Ethridge and Donovan.
"A couple of the girls spoke very, very good English and would interpret," Ethridge said, "but when it got heated, they never told us what would be said, so it was selective what they would be telling us."
Along with the difficulties of learning a new language in a new culture, living so far away from home in the late 1980 had its difficulties as well.
"The hard part about playing overseas then was we didn't have Internet, we didn't have TV, and if you made a phone call it would cost you a fortune," Ethridge explained as she thought back to her days competing in Italy. "You were really cut off from the United States and your family. It was such a different world, but now-a-days, people are watching the same TV shows, they're Skyping and they're just as much here as they are overseas."
While things have definitely changed for Ethridge, as now she'll step onto the court in Italy as a coach instead of as a player, she said her experiences of traveling the world during her basketball career have helped her grow as a person. She has taken in the various cultures and is excited to have the opportunity to lead her K-State team to do the same.
"Between that and having spent time in China, Japan and Russia, I've been so many places in the world and I think I have a lot of experience," Ethridge said. "As you get older, you get a better perspective on how good we have it. We have it so good here, and I think our players and young people today get real caught up in things that don't matter. I think one of the greatest experiences is just going overseas and experiencing other cultures.
"This is a time where we can really see the world and see how old these buildings are and see how much history there is," Ethridge continued. "Ultimately, I think it'll make us a better team because a broader perspective and a more appreciative perspective is really a great start for our season, especially for such a young team."
On and off the court, the K-State Women's basketball team is enjoying its time in Italy. On August 11, the Wildcats defeated the Italy All-Stars 69-46 in Nerviano, Italy, and on August 12, they overcame the Vincenza All-Stars 80-32. The team spent August 14-15 traveling through Florence, and after arriving in Rome today, will play its final game of the trip tomorrow afternoon against ASD Bull Basket.
Every day has been a new experience for the team, and Ethridge said her favorite thing about going back to Italy is the time she's spent with her Wildcats.
"They haven't seen any of it before, so showing them the sites is really the thing that I'm looking forward to the most," Ethridge said with a smile. "Every experience is going to be something new to them, so it's going to be fun watching their experience through their little eyes."
To dive deeper into K-State Women's Basketball's trip to Italy, check out what sophomore Kelly Thompson has to say on the team's blog.