Hungarian Hoopster

Paul M. Soper

Reka Cserny '05

After spending the summer before her freshman year practicing English, Hungarian native Reka Cserny ’05 had the language almost down—almost. She could understand when others spoke to her, but she says she often had trouble responding.

“I looked for her at one of the random freshman events, asking all these tall girls if her name was Reka,” Rochelle K. Bell ’05, Cserny’s teammate on the women’s basketball team, writes in an e-mail. “I finally found her. All she said was, ‘Hello, my name is Reka.’ And that’s pretty much the most communication I got out of her all freshman year.”

But the 6’3 center was quick to adjust to her new surroundings. Her teammates and roommates agree that her sense of humor was already well-developed by the time she arrived at school. Hana Peljto ’04 says that before Harvard’s NCAA tournament game against North Carolina during Cserny’s freshman year, Cserny sent out an e-mail to the team impersonating one of the more famous Tar Heel alums.

“Out of the blue she sent a forwarded e-mail from Michael Jordan saying he couldn’t be at the game, but that he wishes us luck,” Peljto writes. “She made up his e-mail address and everything.”

It is this sort of unexpected humor that Cserny’s friends say make her so endearing. In fact, she is listed on as being married to Bell, something that both she and Bell say is a joke, but which others have taken a bit more seriously.

“I have heard Rochelle say several times she wants to have Reka’s babies,” Peljto writes. “I am a little upset I wasn’t invited to the wedding.”

While Cserny’s off-court antics have endeared her teammates, it is her on-court prowess that has garnered her fame. A sole captain of the women’s team this year, Cserny has also been a first-team All-Ivy player for the last three. She has quickly made a name for herself as one of Harvard’s all-time greats, having already set numerous records.

“She’s an absolute phenomenal leader,” says her coach, Kathy Delaney-Smith. “She’s absolutely loved by her teammates.”

Maintaining the team’s morale will be particularly tough for Cserny this season. Last year the Crimson finished a disappointing second place in the Ivies, defeating expectations the team would run away with its third straight conference championship. Coming off that disappointment will be especially hard this season with the loss of stars like Peljto.

But with Cserny at the helm, anything could happen. It certainly seems possible that if Harvard wins the league championship this year and the NCAA automatic bid that comes with it, an e-mail from Michael Jordan would be less of a joke. Or maybe still a joke, but a less funny one.