Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Women's hoops has a global reach

Chen Yue had little trepidation about coming 6,000 miles from Beijing to Cal to play for the 19th-ranked Golden Bears.

The 6-foot-7 freshman center, who is believed to be one of the first Chinese basketball players to play at a high college level, wanted to challenge herself both on the court and in the classroom. So heading to the U.S. was an easy decision.

"American colleges have a high level of basketball and academics," she said. "It helps you not only with basketball, but for your whole life. It develops your whole character for the future."

She is one of 275 international players competing this season in women's Division I basketball. Nearly 50 different countries are represented, including Russia, Spain, Australia, Brazil, Senegal, Canada and China. While that number is down a little bit from last season when more than 300 were playing, there has been an upward trend over the past few years. Last season 4.9 percent of women's players were from foreign countries.

Daniel Prince, who runs Passion Hoops International — a company that helps foreign players connect with American colleges, said that number will keep rising. He has helped more than 120 of the current women's international players find schools, including Chen. The schools pay a fee for Prince's scouting services, getting access to a vast database of international players.

"There's a lot more talent down the road wanting to come here and that will only help the game grow," he said.

Prince heard about Chen and knew she'd draw a lot of interest from top colleges. Her parents played professionally in China and she wanted to get a great education. Her transition to Berkeley has gone smoothly so far. It helps that nearly 20 percent of Cal's freshmen class is Chinese.

"It's not that different from home," said Chen, who grew up in Beijing. "It definitely makes a difference that there are a lot of Chinese students here."

On the court, Chen is still adjusting. She's played in eight games so far, averaging two points. The biggest difference for her is the physicality of play in the United States, where players are stronger and there is a lot more contact allowed.

"It definitely is more physical here," said Chen, who has a smooth jump shot. "It's something I'm learning to play through."

While Chen is blazing a trail for Chinese players, Spain has been a hotbed for recruiting for the past few years. Twenty-one Spaniards are currently playing in the U.S., including Florida State star Leticia Romero and her teammate Maria Conde. While going so far away from home can be a challenge, especially around the holidays, the Spanish players try to help each other out.

They have a group chat in Spanish using the phone application WhatsApp where they can lend each other support, joke around and have a taste of home.

"It's a great way to keep in contact with each other," said Romero, who spent Christmas in Canada with teammate Adut Bulgak and her family.

The downturn in the Spanish economy is a big reason why so many players from that country have come to the U.S. Spain used to be one of the top leagues with players earning thousands of dollars a month. Romero played in that league when she was in her teens going up against WNBA stars such as Maya Moore and Lauren Jackson.

"A lot of those players now that used to play in the top Spanish league want to get an education," said Prince. "Their parents are doing their homework on playing in America now. They are crunching the numbers, why not get the best of both worlds. It's the best situation possible."

The influx of foreign talent has also helped create more parity among schools.

"There really is so much talent all over the world that it's great to have a broader recruiting pool to choose from," said South Florida coach Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez has been finding international stars for years, and the 20th-ranked Bulls have players on their roster from Spain, Portugal, Latvia and Kenya this season. Fernandez takes a few trips overseas to watch tournaments hoping to find his next star.

Playing in tournaments helped Duke freshman Angela Salvadores get discovered.

She led Spain to the U18 European championship this past summer. That came a year after the tournament's MVP scored 40 points against the U.S. in U17 world championship. It put her on the radar of many of the top teams in the country, including the Blue Devils.

"I wanted to get a great education," Salvadores said of coming to Duke. "It's taken a little adjusting so far."

The Blue Devils' third-leading scorer may miss some of the comforts of home, but she has found a Spanish restaurant or two in the area that definitely has helped ease the transition.

"It makes it a little easier," said Salvadores, who was able to go home to Spain for a few days over the holidays.

USF's U.N.

The No. 20-ranked Bulls have a roster heavy on international basketball talent. According to the team's website, seven of USF's 15 players are from abroad. They are: Laura Ferreira (Portugal), Laia Flores (Spain), Maria Jespersen (Denmark), Kitija Laksa (Latvia), Laura Marcos Canedo (Spain), Ariadna Pujol (Spain) and Nancy Warioba (Kenya).


Women's hoops has a global reach 12/29/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2015 7:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi admitted he probably should have gone on the DL sooner than late July for the back stiffness that was keeping him from throwing the ball where he wanted to. He has since found an impressive groove, with another strong outing Saturday.

  4. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State


    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.