On the streets of Sarajevo, Katherine Hueter couldn't help but notice a city still adjusting to a post-war reality.
Buildings in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina remained pockmarked by bullets and mortar shells from the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. From April 1992 to February 1996, Serb forces encircled Sarajevo with the objective of creating a new Serbian state.
It was all historically fascinating for the former Hilliard Darby High School basketball standout who recently returned from a nine-day trip to Europe with USA Athletes International, Inc.
"A lot of the country was run down, but you could tell they were trying to bring it back," Hueter said. "It was a surreal experience to be that far away from home. You mature a lot, but we all had something to hold on to from home, and that was basketball."
The opportunity to represent the U.S. came in an email last summer from Denison coach Sara Lee, who had recruited Hueter during her senior season in 2007.
While Hueter settled on Wittenberg, Lee certainly knew of her talents.
Last season as a sophomore, Hueter averaged 7.3 points and 6.9 rebounds as the Tigers finished 14-12 overall and 9-7 in the North Coast Athletic Conference.
Hueter was among hundreds of USAAI team members who will compete in 15 sports in 25 different countries this year.
The mission of the non-profit organization is to not only give amateur athletes and coaches the opportunity to participate in Olympic-style sporting events but also a cultural knowledge of the world through the experience.
USAAI was originally the Midwest All-Stars, a team that provided overseas trips for baseball players.
Because of NCAA rules, athletes are responsible for the cost of the trip, but USAAI takes care of the logistics.
"You get parents who are worried about the athletics, but that's only about 40 percent of it," program coordinator Darrell Phipps said. "The rest is cultural. That's the thing that I try to impress upon everybody. Here's an opportunity to play the sport you love and see the world."
Hueter really didn't know what kind of competition she'd be facing in her European opponents, but she said the teams were comparable to Division II and Division III college programs.
The most difficult adjustment came on the court.
"It was kind of crazy to adjust at first because over there it's like NBA and you get an extra step," she said. "It was good competition.
"I think we had more basketball skill, but they had heart and were determined to win just like we were."
Hueter, a 5-foot-11 wing, had a big role in keeping team USA unbeaten.
During a tournament game in Sarajevo, she hit the game-winning jump shot with about 10 seconds left.
Those late-game heroics mattered most Jan. 24 when she hit a runner with 3 seconds left to give Wittenberg a 73-72 victory over Ohio Wesleyan. The win moved the Tigers into second place in the league.
That night she finished with a double-double of 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
As a freshman, she earned a varsity letter after starting in 18 games. She ranked second in rebounds (137) and steals (37).
Hueter is majoring in English and secondary education.
Her younger sister, Alex, is studying abroad this summer in Rome.
"I keep telling my parents that the trip was one of the greatest gifts they could ever give me," she said. "Seeing that part of the world really made me thankful for the life I have and basketball allowed me to do it."