The team Dawn Plitzuweit will take into her first season as Gophers women's basketball coach has 14 players and almost as many contradictions. For example:

* Four of the top minutes-per-game players from last year's team are back in guards Mara Braun, Amaya Battle and Maggie Czinano and forward Mallory Heyer, which would suggest continuity. But they are the only four players who appeared in a game in a Gophers uniform in 2022-23.

* The much-heralded freshman class recruited by former coach Lindsay Whalen from a year ago — Braun (15.6 points per game), Heyer (10.4), Battle (9.0) and forward Nia Holloway (injured last season) — all decided to stay through the coaching transition, as did Czinano. But there are six new freshmen and a grad transfer (guard Janay Sanders). Holloway is expected back from an ACL injury but has yet to play, and center Sophie Hart, who transferred to the U from North Carolina State early last season, has practiced with the Gophers but has yet to play.

* There is experience — Braun, Holloway, Battle and Czinano combined to score 54.4% of the team's points and dish 62.8% of the team's assists last year. But the roster currently has only four players who aren't freshman or sophomores.

All of which makes the Gophers' upcoming European (non) vacation so important.

"The advantage of going to Greece and Croatia at this time is you get to build bonds," Plitzuweit said. "A lot of people talk about building authentic relationships. What does it take to do that? It takes time. And it takes time away from basketball. We're going to get to do those things, and we're doing it for a 10-game stretch."

There are other advantages to taking the trip. It allowed the Gophers to add 10 practices to their summer schedule, crucial given the new faces, new coaches and new systems.

"The advantage isn't really the games we play," Plitzuweit said. "It's the practices."

But it will give time on the court to the freshmen as well as Hart, Sanders and forward/center Aminata Zie, who missed last season because of a knee injury.

A summer of workouts has taught Plitzuweit a lot about the team. The returning players have been welcoming to the new players and staff. There is a desire up and down the roster to improve. Especially among the returning players, there is a hunger to improve on last season's 11-19 season in Whalen's final year as coach.

"They care, they want to be good, they're coachable," Plitzuweit said. "They have something to prove. They have a little chip on their shoulder, in a good way."

Plitzuweit is impressed with the collective basketball IQ on the team. An example: This week in practice, the coaching staff had the practice players throw a new offense at the first team, something they hadn't seen. "They had a hard time with it," Plitzuweit said Tuesday. "But then today, it was like, 'OK, it's a ball screen/back screen.' Their ability to learn from one day to the next — and retain it — is high. They learn fast."

As with any young team, the key is consistency. "We have flashes where we get it, do some good things," she said. "But it's how many times can we sustain that?"

Plitzuweit said she has seen a number of players stand out over the summer, including:

* Battle might be the most improved player on the team, the coach said. Challenged to be more assertive on both ends of the court, Battle has responded. She spent the summer working on her shot. "Her shot is good, really good," Plitzuweit said. "She just needs more reps and confidence."

* Plitzuweit said she thinks Braun's work with Team USA 3x3 basketball will be a springboard into a strong sophomore season. Braun, who made the Big Ten all-freshman team, was part of the U.S. team that won the U21 Nations League Asia Pacific tournament in China in June and will be a part of the U23 team that plays in the FIBA Nations League final in Mongolia in September. Among all the players Plitzuweit has coached, she said Braun sees the game like a coach more than almost anyone.

* Hart and Czinano have been impressive this summer. Hart's presence in the post should be a huge boost, and Czinano is coming off her best week of practice all summer.

* Among the newcomers, it appears guard/forward Grace Grocholski and guard Kennedy Klick have a great chance of seeing a lot of action as freshmen. Grocholski is coming from a high school system similar to what Plitzuweit runs, and her three-point shooting has been impressive. Klick could get time as the backup point guard. "She's had moments where I'm like, 'Wow,'" Plitzuweit said.