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New-look UNM women prepare for trip to Europe

Freshman Amdriana Avent during practice Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday, July. 16, 2019. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Tuesday was not a summer vacation day for the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team.

On the contrary, the Lobos put in a full-speed, two-hour workout at the Rudy Davalos Center in preparation for their upcoming team excursion to Europe.

Coach Mike Bradbury’s team leaves July 31 for what will be a working vacation of sorts, with a pair of international games mixed into the tour. But for now it’s all about preparation and piecing together a revamped team.

“We’re so different, I’m honestly not sure where we are right now,” Bradbury said. “Last year we had new faces, but it was an older team. This year it’s new faces and a really young team. I love our talent and enthusiasm, but we have a lot more to learn.”

Bradbury does not expect his players to absorb the full playbook before they leave for Europe. Instead, UNM is using the majority of its 10 extra NCAA-allotted practice days to work on base offense and defense and a handful of inbounds plays.

“We’ll be more focused on just playing together,” Bradbury said.

Still, picking up even the basics in a month or less is a challenge for UNM’s incoming freshmen. Newcomers Corina Carter, Andriana Avent and Autumn Watts made their share of impressive plays Tuesday, but all three got caught out of position at times.

“It’s a lot to learn,” said Carter, a 5-foot-6 point guard from San Antonio, Texas. “I know we’re going to mess up a little because we haven’t played together, but when the ball’s in my hands I want to bring the ship in safely. I want to take on a lot.”

Carter figures to handle the ball extensively not only this summer but into next season as returning All-Mountain West point guard Aisia Robertson recovers from ACL surgery. Junior Jaedyn De La Cerda, from Roswell, and senior transfer Najala Howell also took shifts at point guard Tuesday.

Freshman Corina Carter goes through a defensive drill. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The Lobos expect to have 10 healthy players available for the European trip. Freshman post Celine Dupont is competing with the Netherlands’ national squad this summer and won’t join the team until August. Robertson and freshman post Azaria Robinson (knee) are rehabbing.

That leaves UNM’s roster more guard-heavy than usual, but it hardly seemed like a problem Tuesday. Carter, De La Cerda, sophomore Ahlise Hurst and Avent were consistently draining 3-pointers in scrimmage situations.

“We probably will be more perimeter-oriented this season,” Bradbury said, “but we should be able to play at a lot faster pace, too.”

Avent, a 5-10 guard from Sacramento, Calif., who arrived in Albuquerque in late June, smiled when asked about UNM’s up-tempo style.

“I’m still getting used to playing fast,” she said, “and I’m still trying to learn when to shoot and when not to. The biggest adjustment is the air, though. It’s a lot thinner here.”

Carter and Avent are excited about visiting Europe, which will be a first for both players. They believe the trip to Italy and France will provide a head start on regular-season preparations — along with its sightseeing benefits.

“Not everyone gets an opportunity like this,” Avent said, “but I have to admit I’m a little nervous about playing over there. I’m still figuring out how we play and I don’t know how European teams play. It’s going to be a full learning experience.”

INJURY UPDATES: Robinson, who underwent ACL surgery in February, participated in shooting drills and did some straight-line jogging during Tuesday’s practice. Bradbury said the 6-2 post from Alaska could be fitted for a brace in August.

“She’s ahead of schedule,” Bradbury said. “We’re hoping she’ll be ready in November or early December.”

Robertson, who underwent surgery in April, has a longer road ahead in rehab. She assisted with passing in Tuesday’s drills but was not in uniform.

“I’m just working the stationary bike and walking on treadmills right now,” Robertson said. “I don’t have a return date yet. Just taking it day by day.”