As a four-sport high school standout and a four-year starter on the Harvard women’s basketball team, co-captain Christine Clark has seen many a season come and go.
However, when the final buzzer sounded inside the Rutgers Athletic Center on Mar. 24, the 63-52 defeat for the Crimson in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament signaled not only a difficult end to another Harvard season, but also the close of Clark’s career in Crimson.
For Clark and her fellow seniors, she says, the disappointing finality of the loss was tempered by a sense of accomplishment for everything the group achieved together during their four years in Cambridge.
Although Harvard never broke through to capture the Ivy League championship during Clark’s tenure with the team, the Crimson finished second in the Ivy League in four consecutive seasons and reached the second round of the WNIT three years in a row.
But the veteran guard had little opportunity to reflect on her decorated collegiate career in the days following its conclusion, as she turned her focus toward preparing for her next athletic pursuit: professional basketball.
“With women’s basketball, there’s a lot of opportunity overseas, and you can go live in Europe for free basically,” Clark said. “That’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Harvard women’s basketball program has a history of producing players who have gone on to play professionally overseas.
Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith, who after 32 years in Cambridge stands as the winningest head coach in Ivy League history, says that around 20 of her former players have pursued careers in Europe.
Given the varying experiences of these players, Delaney-Smith stresses the uncertainty involved in trying to find a roster spot abroad.
Due to the fluid nature of European scouting and scheduling, garnering recognition from foreign organizations can prove challenging.
“Brogan Berry [’12] was the last player I had who tried to go play,” Delaney-Smith said. “Unfortunately…she did it in an Olympic year where the calendar was entirely changed.”
In addition to the problems presented by the structure of the European system, Delaney-Smith notes that Clark’s on-floor position may pose an additional challenge as she seeks interest from teams.
Due to the prevalence of the small-ball style of play in Europe, the continent produces a plethora of skilled guards but lacks a pool of talented frontcourt players to draw from. As a result, European organizations usually seek forwards and centers when they scout American players.
Because Clark plays guard, the Tucson, Ariz. native faces more competition for recognition than she would at another position.
Delaney-Smith admits the troubles of this reality but also understands Clark’s talent.