ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) — UAlbany women’s basketball head coach Colleen Mullen and the Great Danes coaching staff have expanded their recruiting range far beyond the borders of the United States. Last year, it paid off with a conference title. This year, they went right back to the well.
Last season four of the top eight players in minutes on the team were international players, helping guide the Danes to the America East championship. With three international freshmen joining UAlbany this season, half of their roster is comprised of overseas players. “The diversity and the varying cultures that are on our team really reflect life,” said head coach Colleen Mullen. “I think it’s interesting when you have people on the team that have different life experiences and bring different skill sets and different perspectives to the table, the whole group is stronger.”
Sweden has been a major pipeline for UAlbany, starting with former Dane Amanda Kantzy, followed by Helene Haegerstrand, Ellen Hahne, and Freja Werth. Veteran international players like Haegerstrand have become meaningful mentors for the younger players making the voyage to the states. “Just being like a safe spot for them,” said the senior guard. “For example we have a Norwegian girl, we understand each other’s languages. That’s a good thing and I feel like that’s what I had with Amanda when she was here. Just like a comfort zone where you can kind of feel like home for a little bit.”
“It’s been a lot of help to me because I know they’ve been through what I am going to be through,” said freshman guard and Estonia native Marie Sepp. “Also having other freshmen who are internationals with me, it’s a good help.”
The veteran players have not only helped the incoming freshman adapt to the American culture, but also the American-style of basketball. “You kind of look at what they’re doing successfully,” said freshman guard Karyn Sanford, who came from Norway to join the Danes. “What they’re bringing back from home but also looking at what they kind of took from the U.S. Basketball and finding a good combination that works for them.”
Having a mix of international players and players from the United States provides a unique blend of skills for UAlbany. “I think that gives us a lot of variety in our offense and defense,” said graduate student Ellen Hahne. “A lot of different types of players, but not just that, also being able to adapt to each other.”
The international component has become a blueprint for UAlbany, and it’s a strategy Mullen isn’t moving away from anytime soon. “It just makes our team that much more dangerous,” said Mullen. “I think that causes a really tough scouting report for our opponents.”