Barry McNamara  |   Published March 20, 2016

Called for traveling

Seniors Houston, Watkins invited to play basketball in Europe in June
  • Emily Watkins (left) and Katie Houston (right) have the opportunity to travel to Europe in June.
When they walked off the court as winners following this year’s regular season finale against Lawrence University, Monmouth College senior basketball players Katie Houston and Emily Watkins could have been excused for letting the emotion of the moment get the best of them.

But, as it turns out, that February day did not mark the end of their time together on the court as Fighting Scots. Nominated to participate on one of this year’s USA Athletes International (USAAI) traveling teams, Houston and Watkins accepted the invitation and will be departing June 7 for a 10-day trip that will take them to Germany, Austria and Italy. They will be led by Emily Cline, the women’s basketball coach at Knox College, whom they competed against eight times during their careers.

“We were contacted last summer,” explained Houston, who earned all-conference honors as a senior after averaging 15 points and eight rebounds per game. “We talked about it with each other, and we decided if we’re going to do it at any time, now’s the time to do it.”

Houston was referring to the fact that since basketball takes place during both of Monmouth’s semesters, enrolling in a study-abroad program would mean giving up half a season. Both Dean’s List business majors have the academic credentials to qualify for such study, but their competitive natures led them to stay with their team.

The USAAI opportunity is not a free ride, explained Watkins, an all-conference performer in softball who averaged six points and six rebounds a game during her senior season on the hardwood.

“The financial burden is completely on our shoulders,” she said. “Every little bit we receive helps.”

To that end, Houston and Watkins have created a GoFundMe account, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/KatieandEmilyUSAAI.

Houston and Watkins played for three basketball coaches at Monmouth, and all three have ties to USAAI or similar organizations. Melissa Bittner, who has coached a team internationally, first got the players interested in it, and their junior-year coach, Katie Marcella, nominated them for the team. Kyle Wilson, who took over for their senior year, took similar trips to Australia and Brazil and says that the players are in for “a life-changing experience.”

“The perspective and experiences I gained from those trips will stick with me throughout my lifetime,” he said. “Emily and Katie will not only learn about the cultures of the various places they visit in Europe, but will also gain a greater understanding of the diversity in our country from their teammates who come from areas outside the Midwest. As soon-to-be graduates, this outside the classroom educational experience will only help them become better representatives of Monmouth College.”

Upon their return in mid-June, Houston and Watkins will head to the next adventures in their lives – full-time employment at Kone and Aerotech, respectively, a pair of companies in the Quad Cities.

Since 1992, USA Athletes International has been a global leader in educational/sports tours, providing recommended student-athletes with the opportunity to participate in the sport they love on an international stage while experiencing cultural enrichment.
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