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Mara Braun is the sort who always needs to be doing something. And that's why the past few months have been so perfect.

Since the Gophers guard finished her freshman season with the University of Minnesota back in March, Braun has been busy. In June she was in Handan, China, as part of Team USA's U21 3x3 basketball team that won the Nations League Asia-Pacific conference title. In August she and her Gophers teammates went on a foreign tour in Croatia and Greece.

This week Braun will be a part of the Team USA group that plays in the U23 Nations League final in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

China, Croatia, Greece, Mongolia. Not bad for the former Wayzata star.

"I think, at this point in my life, it's a good thing,'' Braun said late last week. "I'm a person who constantly needs to be doing stuff. But also just the fact that I'm able to travel the world playing the sport I love, that's something that is once in a lifetime. It's a pretty cool thing.''

Braun has one more destination in mind: the NCAA tournament.

So much has changed with the program. New coach in Dawn Plitzuweit, a new staff. Only four players on the 14-player roster played in a game in a Gophers uniform last year.

But three of those — Braun, Mallory Heyer and Amaya Battle — were a part of the highly-praised all-Minnesota freshman class that also included Nia Holloway, who was injured last season.

All three were starters and averaged in double figures scoring.

Led by Braun, whose 15.6-point scoring average and 65 made threes led the team and pushed her onto the Big Ten Conference all-freshman team.

The expected jump often made between the freshman and sophomore seasons, Holloway's returned health, a strong recruiting class and the eligibility of center Sophie Hart give the Gophers reason for optimism and heightened tournament expectations.

"That's always the goal,'' Braun said. "Knowing Coach P did it at West Virginia [last season] in one year. We've all got a chip on our shoulder, and we have the same main goal. We want to do well for the state. Honestly, doing whatever it takes to win games is big for me.''

Braun's summer school should help.

The 3x3 game is a different animal. The shot clock is half as long, and the teams play on the half court. Games are short, to 21, with one point given for a make inside the arc, two from outside. The pace is frenetic and any mistake is hard to overcome.

Kelsey Plum, a star for the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces, was a part of the Team USA team that won gold in the event at the last Olympics. She said her experience there translated well to the traditional game.

"The style is physical and it forces you to play through a lot of things,'' Plum said. "Also, physically, with your fitness, the game is so fast-paced and there are no breaks. You have to step up your strength and conditioning.''

Here's another thing. The condensed nature of the court forces players to get their shot off more quickly. Braun showed a quick release as a freshman. But just wait.

"People have already commented of that, how my release is quicker,'' Braun said. "For me, it's become not having to think, just shooting it. That will help on 5 x 5. I won't overthink things.

There were times last season when Braun would start games relatively tentatively. Her 3x3 experience should change that. "I have to be aggressive right away,'' she said.

After she returns from Mongolia, Gophers training camp won't be far away. And Braun has goals, though nothing numbers-related. She wants to start quickly. She wants to use her defense to fuel her offense. She wants consistency.

She wants to win.

Braun is a fan of Plitzuweit's practices, which are very detailed, and the coach's focus on defense.

Now it's time for all that to translate. "I want to win games,'' she said. "That's why I came here. Honestly, doing whatever it takes to win games is big for me.''