May 8, 2019

Erica McCall (2017) - Year two of overseas play: New year, same team, different blessings

Well, season two of overseas basketball is almost a wrap, and I am blessed to say I am feeling much-improved, culturally-adapted, and most importantly, healthy.

When I last wrote about my overseas experience at the end of my first season in Szekszárd, Hungary, I self-titled my journey “the season of growth.” Now about to finish out my second season with the same team, the best way to title this year would be “the season of comfort." When I was first deciding whether or not I would return to Hungary, my initial thought process was all about the money. (I only signed my contract for a season, so at the end of the year I had to the option to return to my team under another year contract or play elsewhere.) I was analyzing the numbers and calculating if my team, or another competing team, could best satisfy my monetary wishes. However, I knew I needed to think more deeply, and I knew that money isn’t always everything.

Since playing overseas, I’ve heard of some terrible situations between players and their teams. In particular, players that were making close to millions of dollars, but were absolutely miserable during their time playing. So miserable that they wanted to leave in the middle of the season, or didn’t want to return after the season was over. I know right now I’m not a million dollar player, but it just shows that no matter how much money you make, your happiness and mental health can always be in danger if you are constantly living in a negative situation.

After considering those stories, I remembered that my first season could be deemed as fairly rare in the overseas basketball world. I liked playing for my coach, enjoyed playing and hanging out with my teammates, lived in a calm and safe city, and played for a professional club that paid my salary on time. I knew my situation was hard to come by. Combining the financial, basketball, and social benefits of playing in Szekszard, I came to the conclusion that returning was in my best interest; and as my dad says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  

Although I enjoyed living and playing in Hungary my first season, I still wanted some changes to my living conditions that would make my second season there even more enjoyable. The first thing on the list was an automatic car. Although I got used to walking around my town and even took pleasure in at times, I knew being able to transport myself comfortably throughout the town and other regions of Hungary would allow me to view more of the beautiful country that I considered a second home.
Next on the list was a larger living area. Last year I lived in a dorm-like studio apartment that included a decent-sized bedroom, a small bathroom, and a small kitchenette with no oven and a half working refrigerator/freezer. I really had no complaints because I was just happy I was living by myself. But after seeing some of my other teammates’ apartments, I knew I could have a more convenient living arrangement for the following season. 

Today I live in a great apartment and drive a brand new Suzuki SUV. My car has truly changed the way I live overseas. I am so appreciative of her. Yes, you read that right. It’s a girl. Her name is Penny because she has a beautiful bronze color, like a penny. She has allowed me to go to places I could only imagine going last year. With my car, I have been able to easily go see other friends play, explore Budapest (a 1.5 hour drive), go to the movies in the next town, hang out with my team more, and I could finally give my teammates rides. Having a car has changed my experience here for the better, and I am so thankful for it.

Along with Penny, my apartment has also benefited my living experience. I reside in a nice-sized apartment that includes a bedroom, a living room, a bigger bathroom with a bathtub, and a bigger kitchen with an oven. I have so much more room to invite company over, and a larger cooking space to cook more sophisticated meals. I even had my teammates over for Thanksgiving dinner. Looking back at my first season, I’m actually really happy that I had a more modest living experience, because it has allowed me to appreciate even more the amazing new accommodations and amenities that I have today. 

Another part of my experience here that has made overseas living quite comfortable has been becoming close to teammates that I now consider great friends. Last year I enjoyed my team and got along with everyone, but being the only American, it was difficult to get close to others because there were a lot of cliques that spoke other languages I couldn’t understand. This year I am still the only American on my team, however all the other foreigners can only speak English to communicate with each other. As opposed to last year, all the Hungarians could speak to each other and the three other foreigners, who were also from Eastern Europe, could speak Serbian amongst themselves, which left me stuck on my phone playing candy crush. Now we have foreigners from Sweden, Croatia, and Australia, so English must be the language of communication.

Thankfully I can talk with others more, therefore in return, I enjoy more of their company. Last year I didn’t have anyone I was close to who I could hang out with outside of team activities. This year I’ve become close to a few teammates. Whenever I’m bored or want to go out and travel the country, I know I can ask these teammates, and they’ll always want to join the adventure. Manty and Iva are my closest friends on the team. We often go out to eat after practices and games, visit nearby cities, or just enjoy conversation over coffee or tea. Having teammates like them has made living in Hungary an even more homey experience, and I am so blessed to go through this season with them. 

Living in the city and communicating with the locals has also become a lot easier this year. My Hungarian has improved greatly, and many people are often surprised by my knowledge. Thanks to my teammates I have mastered my numbers, colors, some greetings, and a few words about food that has helped me drastically in ordering food on my own. Most locals have also become even more friendly with me this year. My “mama and papa” I have adopted out here have really taken me in as their own, and often bring me food and medicine whenever I am under the weather.

Returning to the same team was a great advantage for me in terms of adjustment. I didn’t have to adapt to a new system or coaching style, and most of my teammates also returned from the previous year. Last year, it took me almost a month to figure out the system and playing style of overseas basketball, which in my opinion is more physical than American basketball. There were some nights when I just stayed up confused and frustrated because I couldn’t fathom how I could struggle so much at something I’ve been doing almost my whole life.

This season it was a whole new story. Compared to my first year, I was far more consistent statistically, and generally felt more comfortable on the court – especially in high-pressure games. In every game this season, I scored in double-digits and even went perfect from the field in one game. It is something that might not mean much to others, but I take pride in this. I know this is a huge sign of improvement, not only with my basketball skills but also my confidence. Without those days of struggle, I would not be as strong, focused, or successful as I am today.

Although basketball went consistently well for me this season, my body, on the other hand, went through some ups and downs. This year I experienced the pain of a strained calf, a bad ankle sprain, a hyperextended knee, the flu, and a stomach virus. My body has never endured this much pain or sickness before. And though it was really tough on me physically, it was even more so mentally. I was forced to miss practices and games, which was difficult for me to accept because I knew I couldn’t help my team on the court. I also had some anxiety about getting out of shape or losing my touch with my skills if I sat out for too long.

Trusting God that I would comeback just fine or even stronger after my injuries is what motivated me during those tough times. I really had to practice patience and create a positive mindset to not only allow my body to heal properly, but to also push me to be the best teammate I could be. Injuries are never fun, but with a good attitude and positivity, the pain is a lot easier to deal with. Thankfully, with great trainers, I am currently healthy and enjoying my time on the court with my team.

During the time I had a stomach virus, I was put in the hospital for safety reasons. Being in an international hospital for the first time was a bit frightening, and I was nervous about the language barrier and how differently the doctors operated than those in the States. But my nerves were quickly settled when they introduced me to an English-speaking nurse that explained the medicine I would be receiving during my stay. Throughout my overnight stay at the hospital, I was overwhelmed with so much love and support from my team. My coach came for an hour and checked in with me and the doctors to make sure I was treated properly, my assistant coach and president of the club cooked for me, and I received a slew of text messages from my teammates giving me well wishes as I gained my strength back. It was during that time that I knew my experience here was truly special. 

The love and comfort I feel here is something many players dream about, and I am so blessed to be able to experience it everyday. I never thought I would call a foreign country my second home, but here I am writing this getting emotional about my time playing in the little city of Szekszárd, Hungary.

Basketball, you have allowed me to see some amazing places and meet some incredible people, and for that, I thank you.

    April 28, 2019

    Chiney (14) traded to LA Sparks; Markisha (07) and Melanie (11) moving on

      Sparks trade for Chiney Ogwumike

      The Los Angeles Sparks have agreed to trade their 2020 first-round pick to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for Chiney Ogwumike, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This move will reunite Chiney with her sister and former league MVP Nneka Ogwumike.

      With Chiney on board, the Sparks have moved from title contention to the championship favorite. Chiney, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, returned to her star self last season after she was hampered by injuries. The former Rookie of the Year missed the entire 2015 season due to micro-fracture surgery in her knee, and the 2017 season due to an Achilles injury in China. Chiney returned in 2018 and averaged 14 points on 60 percent shooting, and seven rebounds. Much like her sister, she’s a bruiser in the paint with excellent finishing abilities in the low post.

      The Sparks are nearly complete with a team that should compete for a title even without the long-rumored move for last year’s MVP-runner up Liz Cambage. LA is expected to re-sign all-star point guard Chelsea Gray, and has already retained defensive star Alana Beard, former MVP Candace Parker, Nneka, and selected Baylor star Kalani Brown with the No. 7-overall pick in April’s draft.

      Sparks fans have every reason to be thrilled with the trade for Chiney. The team’s centerpiece, Parker, now has the ultimate relief in the post. The Ogwumike’s and Brown should take the burden of battling down low with true bigs and boxing out for rebounds off the versatile point-forward. Chiney is also as reliable as they come to cleanup shots around the rim.

      For the Sun, gaining a first-round pick is critical as they try and grow a talented roster into an elite one. Clearing Ogwumike means more minutes for young stars with high potential like 2019 No. 9 pick Kristine Anigwe and 25-year-old Jonquel Jones. Connecticut will run for a playoff spot this season, but they might not have the components for a big run just yet. Maybe an extra pick next season can convert into another star through the draft or by trade.

      The rest of the WNBA should be gearing up to face the Los Angeles Sparks, however. The Ogwumike sisters on the same team will be a problem few can handle.
      Major coaching changes at two Atherton schools
      Two of the Peninsula top basketball coaches have stepped down from their posts over the last several weeks. Menlo-Atherton’s Markisha Coleman and Sacred Heart Prep’s Melanie Murphy have both stepped aside after five-year runs at their respective schools. Coleman will be taking over at Eastside College Prep, her alma mater. There was no word on Murphy’s future.
      “I understand the allure of going back to Eastside College Prep,” M-A co-athletic director Steven Kryger said. “She had tears in her eyes when she told me. She told me this (the ECP position) is the only job she would leave M-A for.” 

      Coleman, a 2007 Stanford graduate where she walked on to the Stanford women’s basketball team before earning a full scholarship her junior and senior years, was in the unenviable position of having to replace the legendary Pam Wimberly, who had guided the M-A girls’ program for 41 years. Beginning in 1968 and lasting through the 2012 season. Coleman was an assistant for two years under Morgan Clyburn, Wimberly’s immediate replacement, before moving into the head coach’s chair beginning the 2014-15 season.

      After taking the coaching reins, the Bears returned to the top of public school basketball on the Peninsula. In her five years, Coleman compiled a Peninsula Athletic League South Division record of 55-5. Overall, Coleman had a win-loss record of 120-37, winning 20 games or more four straight years. She just missed the 20-win plateau this season, finishing 19-12. Her teams qualified for the Central Coast Section tournament all five years, including a pair of invitations to the CCS Open Division. The Bears made two CCS championship games, falling short in 2015 and again in 2018 and had a CCS record of 8-6. The team qualified for the Northern California bracket all five years of Coleman’s tenure, going 6-5 and advancing to the Division I semifinals in 2016 and the Division IV finals this past season.

      “I think she is a phenomenal role model for the girls,” Kryger said. “Here’s a woman … who carries herself with class and respect. She demonstrates to [the players] how much she cares for them, while also holding them to a high standard on and off the court.”

      Coleman be will taking over an Eastside College Prep program that is among the best in the state. She is replacing Donovan Blythe, who spent the last dozen years as the Panthers’ head coach. He already left for China to run a basketball academy. Blythe led the Panthers to back-to-back Division V state titles in 2016 and 2017.

      Murphy had a very similar path as Coleman. Murphy is also a former Stanford player who graduated in 2011. She also was coming into a program where expectations were high as the team was a little more than a decade removed from their last of 10 CCS titles. While the Gators always seemed to struggle in West Bay Athletic League play — they were just 18-36 in league play under Murphy — she always had the team ready for the postseason. Beginning the 2015-16 season, Murphy’s second with the team, she took SHP to four straight CCS championship games, winning a pair of CCS Division IV titles in 2016 and 2018, while compiling a CCS record of 11-3. She was also 5-4 in four Nor Cal appearances, twice reaching the semifinals.
      Murphy finishes her SHP tenure with an overall record of 84-57.  

       Melanie                                                                                                               Markisha

    April 14, 2019

    Kayla Pedersen - June Wedding

    Kayla Pedersen, June Wedding

    How We Met
    "You guys should meet. You're both tall." So we did. As soon as introductions finished, our friends seemingly vanished, leaving us to awkward conversation. Though neither of us knew what could happen between an engineer and a professional athlete, Nathan got some digits and asked Kayla out for coffee. After just a few short weeks, we made our relationship official while attending a Christian music festival together.
      The Engagement
      Kayla went to Australia to play in her last professional basketball season while Nathan stayed to work in Phoenix. Over letters and video dates, our love and friendship grew stronger. Nathan came to the Land Down Under to visit Kayla for a few weeks in November. He surprised Kayla by having a few of his buddies visit and join in on a road trip down the Great Ocean Road. Day One of the trip was met with a sandstorm on the beach, a power outage, and a thunderstorm. Not the most romantic day for a surprise proposal. Day Two presented Nathan with a beautiful setting to get down on one knee. We climbed to the top of Cape Otway Lighthouse and with the wind blowing at hurricane force, Nathan held onto the ring and asked Kayla to marry him. She said yes! We climbed down the tower and had some time of prayer together before joining our friends for some more adventure!
      What Now?
      Now that Nathan and Kayla are both in Phoenix for the foreseeable future, the wedding planning has begun. We can’t wait to get married!
      With Christ as our foundation, we can't wait to do life as 'one' and celebrate this union with our family and friends.
      Kayla and Nathan will be getting married June 1st in Granby, Co. Congratulations to them!

    March 27, 2019

    Azella Perryman 05' Fear - Find your "Happy"

    Fear will only get you so far...…….
    Azella Perryman,  Caviar National Catering Operations Lead at Square

    So…I’ll be the first to admit – I’ve spent the majority of my life living in fear. Fear that I won’t succeed. Fear that I WILL succeed and then people will expect that of me all the time. Fear that I wouldn’t live up to expectations. Fear that at some point people would realize I’m winging it. Fear that I’ll disappoint the people who believe in me….And that fear has driven me to do some pretty great things, get into pretty great schools and companies. A healthy dose of fear is what helps us survive, so I’m not advocating for it to be banished completely.
    But at some point, in the last couple of years,  I started to realize that I was climbing the proverbial ladder to some distant nebulous goal of ‘success’.  I hadn’t really defined myself. Despite my ‘accomplishments’ (the names on my resume, the schools I’d gone to, the companies I’d worked at – all the things that generally people would point to and say I’d ‘succeeded” in life), I wasn’t really striving towards MY version of happy. And then I realized I had no idea what actually made me happy. So I started wondering what exactly was driving me to choose the jobs, relationships, and lifestyle that I was pushing myself towards.

    The more I read, talked to people, (even went on a silent meditation retreat to find that inner voice)…the more I realized that the decisions I was making weren’t based on the biggest, best, possible future I could imagine…it was me subconsciously running from some terrible yet-to-occur possible future where I was socially shunned, broke and a complete failure. Or, it was me being paralyzed by the idea that I’d been given so much that if I didn’t do something GREAT and worthy of all of these blessings (i.e. you got into HBS – you HAVE to go run some Fortune 500 company or start a non-profit to help a million people or else you should have let someone else who wanted to be a game-changer have that spot!), I’d be wasting my life.
    Which, lets be honest – isn’t cute. It’s not very ‘game-changer’-ish to admit to yourself that you’re not living on purpose…you’re just scared of messing up.I took pretty drastic measures to try and figure out my happy – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that for everyone. But what I would say is it’s probably not a bad idea for anyone considering Bschool…or who’s finished Bschool and are on that ‘real life career path’ now to stop for a minute and question your own motives.
    Fear is healthy to a certain point. But Fear will only get you so far. And then…you kind of have to say F it and start listening to that little voice inside that was there all along that you’ve been ignoring that’s been trying to tell you to go left when the rest of the world is telling you everyone is going right and that you should follow the crowd because it’s safe over there.

    I think us MBA-types sometimes lose respect for our intuition. We over-rationalize our way into the roles that “make sense”. But sense is usually based on the life we THINK we’re SUPPOSED to lead, not on the life that would allow us to be the biggest version of ourselves. I’m not saying quit your job tomorrow because it doesn’t wake you up jumping out of bed for joy every morning. And I’m not saying don’t apply to the highest-ranked most prestigious b-school you can because you know they don’t have a major in what you want to do for your life purpose.
    There are choices we make because we have responsibilities in life and the need to pay the bills is real. But. Some of the happiest people I know are happy because they took the plunge, got real about what THEIR happy looks like, despite what the “successful MBA life” looks like, and found a way to handle responsibilities their own way.
    Close your eyes and rebel against your everyday version of success. Think about what decisions you’d make (what school you’d apply to, what job you’d take, what relationships you’d choose) if you weren’t afraid, if you were focused on YOUR version of happy. Think about what YOUR happy really is. Who knows. You might surprise yourself.


      March 13, 2019

      Jillian Harmon - chats with fans, wins Italian Cup, has birthday

        In the video above Jillian answers questions from a few fans (Jillian speaks English, fans Italian subtitled)

      Had a Birthday this month!                                                                Jillian decided to run a triathalon
                                                                                                                  this past summer