Nebraska Coach Connie Yori is a realist. Anyone who is familiar with the 10th-year Husker head coach's style knows that Yori does not regularly shower her team or players with unwarranted praise.
That is why when Yori's eyes light up and a smile stretches across her face when asked about the team's recent 11-day journey to Scandinavia, it is impossible not to take notice of her optimism.
The Huskers, who returned to fall semester classes at the University of Nebraska on Monday, Aug. 22, just one week after returning from Europe, went 3-1 on the trip. The tour that included stops in Stockholm, Sweden, Oslo, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark, began with a loss to a talented Swedish National Team, before substantial winning margins over one Norwegian and one Danish club team. Nebraska concluded the trip with an impressive win over the Danish National Team on Aug. 14.
"We definitely got better, and that was exciting and encouraging to see," Yori said. "Our freshmen are going to help us this year. I've been saying that since our first set of practices in June, but they have continued to get better and learn our system and work hard. All four of our true freshmen could play roles for us throughout the year. We also have a little bit better idea of the things they need to focus on now, so we can start working on them right away. It is definitely going to speed up their development process as players."
Emily Cady, a 6-2 freshman forward from Seward, Neb., drew praise from Yori throughout the team's 10 days of NCAA-allowable practices leading up to the trip. Cady showed that praise was deserved by averaging 13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, a block and a steal during the four games in Europe.
Brandi Jeffery, a 5-7 guard from Vacherie, La., provided consistent production for the Huskers throughout the tour, averaging 9.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. The 2011 Louisiana High School Player of the Year and Parade All-American scored between eight and 10 points in all four games and grabbed at least one rebound in every contest.
Tear'a Laudermill, a 5-9 guard from Riverside, Calif., expanded her contributions during the trip. In the first two games on the tour, Laudermill had seven points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals combined. In the last two games in Denmark, Laudermill averaged 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals.
Hailie Sample, a 6-1 guard from Flower Mound, Texas, added 4.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while providing a strong defensive presence on the wing for the Huskers.
In addition to the improvements of the true freshmen, Yori was also pleased with the increased production of sophomore Jordan Hooper. The 6-2 forward from Alliance, Neb., averaged 22.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block per game. She capped the tour with 33 points and eight rebounds in the win over the Danish National Team.
"Jordan has gotten better, there is no question about it," Yori said. "She has done a really good job of listening to the coaches after her freshman season and working hard on the weaknesses in her game. She is stronger, a better defender, more aggressive on both offense and defense, and she now has a couple more weapons in her offensive game."
In addition to watching her players grow on the court, Yori said she was impressed by the chemistry, unity and leadership that has developed among the Huskers.
"What a great trip for the players and staff for every reason," Yori said. "From a team standpoint, our players definitely grew closer and continued to develop some great team chemistry. The way they interacted with each other throughout the trip was exciting to see. They naturally bonded with everybody. There were no cliques or people moving in the same groups all the time. They just naturally and genuinely wanted to spend time with everybody. As a coach, that is really rewarding to see."
The Huskers are scheduled to open exhibition play on Sunday, Oct. 30, before opening regular-season action on Saturday, Nov. 12. Nebraska's full schedule has not been announced, but is expected to be released within the next two or three weeks.
The Fastbreakers Nebraska Women's Basketball Booster Club will play host to Husker Golf Scramble on Monday, Aug. 29, at Wilderness Ridge. For complete details on the golf event, dinner and auction, please visit the link on Huskers.com.