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Crimson Eyes Europe Ball

By David Mazza, Contributing Writer

Co-captain Brogan Berry currently has her eyes set on Princeton, Yale, and the rest of the Ivy League. But a year from now, she could be preparing for Bourges, Rivas Ecopolis, or Taranto. Whether she decides to play in France, Spain, or Italy, Berry hopes to play professionally overseas after she graduates from Harvard.

Doing so has become a trend for Harvard women’s basketball players over the past few years, as Berry hopes to follow in the most recent footsteps of former teammates Emily Tay ’09 and Katie Rollins ’09. Current assistant coach Lindsay Hallion ’08 also played overseas after graduation.

“I know a couple of my past teammates who have gone over there, and some have really enjoyed their experience while some have not had as a good experience,” Berry says. “It is something I want to try out for myself.”

The trend has become a self-sustaining one, as Crimson basketball players with no prior professional aspirations have seen teammates take this next step and have become intrigued themselves. And when it comes time to make a decision, a network of experienced alumni has only helped players in their endeavors.

“With the culture of this program, they know they can [play overseas],” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith says.

Berry herself didn’t consider overseas ball seriously until her sophomore year at Harvard, after witnessing other teammates pursuing the career.

“Coming into Harvard as a freshman, I definitely never really considered it,” Berry says. “But seeing players in the past three years has made me realize my passion and love for the game, and it definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of a great experience.”

For many, playing professional ball overseas has been a short-term decision, a transition year or two until entering the “real” world.

When Rollins was about to enter the real world, the economy was at a low point, and the job market was not too appealing. That influenced Rollins’ decision to join TSV Amicitia Viernheim of Germany, along with her Pforzheimer roommate Tay.

“It’s something I never even thought about doing,” Rollins says. “The opportunity presented itself right after the season, and I knew I could play at the next level—it was just a matter of if I wanted to.”

Despite being somewhat burnt out after four hard years playing Division I ball, Rollins decided the opportunity was too great to pass up.

“But I felt like, who am I not to embrace this opportunity?” she says. “I kind of thought, when I’m 30 or 40 looking back and I don’t take this chance, then I’ll probably regret it forever.”

After a year abroad, all expenses paid, Rollins decided to move on, having gained a cultural experience and ready to look for more conventional career path.

But whereas many like Rollins have used basketball as tool to get overseas, some, like Tay, have pursued this opportunity more for the basketball itself.

Tay, who is featured in the recent documentary “No Look Pass,” is still playing in Germany.

Besides missing her family and “good sushi,” Tay believes playing overseas is definitely a worthwhile experience.

“I would definitely recommend playing in Europe,” Tay says. “I’m having a great time. It’s not for everyone, but I would recommend everyone to try it for a year.”

According to Rollins, Tay may be also ready to look elsewhere for a career as she enters her third year in Europe with a full-time job at an American military base.

Another former Harvard standout, Allison Feaster ’98, currently plays in Spain after spending 10 years in the WNBA.

So as Berry weighs her options, she will look towards these players for advice, having already been in touch with many of them.

“Reaching out to the past Harvard alumni has been a huge help,” Berry says. “I would really like to pursue a career, just go for the experience, and try out something new.”

Right now, she would like to have an experience more like Rollins’ that serves as a transitional period.

But Berry is open to the possibility of continuing the dream and indefinitely postponing that entrance into the real world.

“You never know,” she says. “If I have a great experience, it could always go for longer.”

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