Maryland women's basketball guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough remembers sitting in the film room last year when a series of unfamiliar slides came onto the screen.
They were pictures of various tourist attractions across Italy, all of which the Terps coaching staff said the team would see when they played two games there next summer.
"I've been out of the country to Toronto," Walker-Kimbrough said. "But yeah, I'm excited."
The main purpose of their trip to Italy, though, doesn't have to do with Walker-Kimbrough or any of the other players in the room that day. The move was geared toward the Terps' top-ranked recruiting class, and they've impressed their coach and older teammates during their short stints in College Park.
"I always say, the biggest compliment is when you don't present like a freshman, and these guys are mature beyond their years," coach Brenda Frese said. "They handle their business in the classroom. On the court, they come ready to work. They pick things up at a really high rate."
Per NCAA regulations, coaches can hold two hours of practice per week for eight weeks during the summer.
But if a team is going on a foreign trip, which the NCAA allows programs to do every four years, it is granted 10 additional practices to prepare. The Terps last traveled outside the country in the summer of 2006 when they went to Europe.
And with seven newcomers joining Maryland's lineup — guard Ieshia Small sat out last season after transferring from Baylor — Frese and her staff decided it was the right time to take advantage of this rare opportunity. So from Aug. 5 to 13, the Terps will travel Lake Como,
Florence and Rome.
"We're throwing kind of a lot right now at the freshmen, so then when we come back to it in the fall, they'll be like 'Oh, I know this drill,'" Frese said. "It'll be a comfort level for them when we come back to it. So it's been a tremendous advantage."
All six freshmen — Destiny Slocum, Kaila Charles, Blair Watson, Stephanie Jones, Sarah Myers, Jenna Staiti — were McDonald's All-American nominees, while Slocum, Charles and Watson played in the All-American game.
Frese referred to them as "sponges," citing their ability to take in a lot of information at once, and praised their tireless work ethic. Walker-Kimbrough doesn't even refer to the freshmen as such, instead calling them "new players" out of respect for their maturity.
Still, the freshmen admit there's plenty to learn, both on and off the court.
Slocum, ESPN's No. 7 overall recruit for the class of 2016, is adapting to living on her own. She's taking college-level courses, specifically "English 101" and "Race and Sports," while receiving college-level coaching from those who "really care about our development and getting better."
Charles has been adjusting to the game's pace and intensity, both of which she said are higher than in high school.
"It's a whole different atmosphere," Slocum said.
Frese referred to Slocum as the "full package," equipped to run a play, score or set up open shots for her teammates. Walker-Kimbrough noted Slocum's aggressiveness and leadership, while also adding she's made passes "I've never seen somebody at her age make."
Walker-Kimbrough earned Big Ten All-Defensive team honors, but Frese said Charles has emerged as the Terps' best defender. She's strong, quick and competitive, according to Frese, and she's caused problems for Walker-Kimbrough, who averaged 19.5 points per game last season.
That squad fell short of the program's third straight Final Four, falling to Washington on their home floor in the Round of 32.
But this is a new team, filled with veteran stars and determined freshmen, and they've had a chance to mesh earlier than usual. And while their trip to Italy will provide the Terps with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they're just as excited about the road ahead.
"Their talent level is taking our team to different levels," Walker-Kimbrough said. "And the way they're playing now, I mean I'm just excited to see what the future holds in February, March, April."