July 7, 2005
PARK RIDGE, IL – The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday that 12 student-athletes have been selected to participate on its 2005 Women’s Basketball Foreign Tour, which will travel to Belgium and the Netherlands, July 17-27. The squad, which includes players from 10 of the 11 Conference institutions, will play five games over 11 days, while taking in some of the breathtaking sights that both countries have to offer.
Highlighting the backcourt will be seniors Crystal Smith of Iowa and Cyndi Valentin of Indiana. Looking ahead to the 2005-06 campaign, Smith and Valentin will enter as two of the top four returning scorers in the Conference, after averaging 16.8 and 15.0 points per game last season, respectively. This past year, Smith was tabbed Third Team All-Big Ten by the coaches and Honorable Mention by the media, while Valentin was named Honorable Mention by both voting panels. Joining Valentin and Smith in the backcourt will be Wisconsin sophomore Janese Banks, who ranked second in scoring for the Badgers last season with 10.6 points per contest, and Michigan State junior Victoria Lucas-Perry. Last y, Lucas-Perry averaged 7.4 points per game and started 28-of-37 games for the Spartans, including the national championship final against Baylor.
A pair of forwards from this past season’s Big Ten All-Freshman Team will also be joining the Tour. Illinois’ Danyel Crutcher and Purdue’s Lindsay Wisdom-Hytlon will be looked upon in the post, as well as Minnesota’s Liz Podominick. The Golden Gopher junior averaged 6.2 points per game last year, while Crutcher averaged just below 6.0 points and rebounds per contest. Wisdom-Hylton had an impressive freshman campaign in 2005, boasting 8.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and a blocks per game average of 1.9, which ranked third in the League.
Northwestern forward Ifeoma Okonkwo, who will join Smith and Valentin as the only seniors on the team, led the Wildcats last year with 11.6 points, while her 5.6 rebounds per game average ranked second. Also at the forward position will be Ohio State junior Stephanie Blanton, who tallied 5.2 points per contest last year, and Michigan State junior Katrina Grantham. The Spartans were entitled to a second player, as Michigan was unable to send a representative due to summer school enrollment.
Penn State’s Rene Portland will serve as head coach of the Big Ten Foreign Tour team, after concluding her 25th year as head coach in State College this past season. Portland has amassed a total of 578 wins at Penn State and a remarkable 665 victories over the course of her 29-year career as a head coach. Two of Portland’s Lady Lions are on this year’s roster – sophomore guard Adrienne Squire and sophomore guard Kamela Gissendanner.
The first of three games against the Netherlands National Team will be played on Tuesday, July 19 in Den Helder, Netherlands. The Big Ten squad will then return to Den Helder the next day for a rematch. The Foreign Tour team will close out its three-game set on Thursday, July 21. After two days of sightseeing with stops at the house of Anne Frank, the Gassan Diamond Factory and The Hague, as well as a few historic art museums, the Tour moves on to Belgium for a stint against the Belgium National Team in Aalst on July 23. Following a tour of the town of Brugge on Sunday, the team will travel to Brussels to prepare for a game against Luxembourg on Monday, July 25.
Last year, the Big Ten Foreign Tour squad went 4-0 in Australia, marking its second consecutive undefeated Tour. The team has gone 46-18 since the inception of the Tour in 1992, which has been held annually except for 2003.
For updated results during the Foreign Tour, visit www.bigten.org.
The Big Ten Foreign Tour Team will depart from Philadelphia on the evening of Sunday, July 17, and will return to Philadelphia in the afternoon of Wednesday, July 27.