Not always a vacation
Playing overseas is not just fun and games. While most top Americans with Division I experience can expect free housing and the use of a car from European clubs, there are drawbacks. Not only do players find themselves in a culture in which everyone does not speak English, but their teammates may only include one or two other Americans.
"You have to be self-reliant and tough -- mentally and physically," says associate head coach Larry Davis, who has made recruiting trips to Europe. "You are isolated, especially when you first get there."
Madinah Slaise, one of the top scorers in UC women's history, recalls those early days in France, Switzerland and Israel, following her one WNBA season in Detroit in 2000. "I was 22 years old, living in another country and couldn't just pick up the phone and call my mother.
"In Switzerland, I was the only English-speaking player, and the coach would speak in his native language," says Slaise, now stationed overseas in the U.S. Air Force. "Everyone knew that I was getting paid more than the (local) players who were there. It was a lot to handle for a kid just out of college."
Today, American men in lower-level European leagues can start out around $50,000 per season while NBA-caliber players in western Europe or Russia can pull in high six figures. But American players, men and women, are almost always expected to be the top scorers for their teams.
"The general manager may threaten to fire you if you donÕt get enough rebounds," says coach Davis. "Some of that is a bluff, and some of that is true."