Women’s basketball has a strong foreign connection. Three players on the roster were recruited from Europe. This summer, two of those players will play for their country’s senior national teams.
Freshman guard Idil Türk will play for Turkey and sophomore forward Hildur Kjartansdóttir will play for Iceland.
Both student-athletes have experience playing on the national basketball teams in the past. More recently, it has been Kjartansdόttir who has spent the past three years playing for Iceland when called upon.
Kjartansdόttir had a breakout season with UTRGV. She started all 33 of the Vaqueros games, averaging 8.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. She was second on the team in field goal attempts and third in field goals made.
The 6-foot-2-inch forward from Stykkishólmur, Iceland, enjoys her time back on the small Nordic island because she has the chance to reunite with familiar faces.
“I really enjoy it, especially playing in front of my family and with my friends,” Kjartansdόttir said. “It’s a great honor to play for your country, so I’m very proud of that.”
As part of her strong season with the Vaqueros, Kjartansdόttir showed balance in her game. While playing the center position, she scored 105 FGs, with 22 being three-pointers. She also recorded 16 blocks and 28 steals during 2015-16. The ability to shoot from anywhere in the half-court and also defend the post makes her a valuable asset.
She said in Europe with her national team her role might change when playing for Iceland. She doesn’t see the change as a bad thing; instead, she looks forward to excelling in different areas.
“It’s kind of different. I’m shooting less on that team, working more under the basket,” the Iceland native said. “It’s very helpful you get to see different styles of the game. It prepares you for the future better. Playing against big players and professional players, it’s exciting.”
Her teammate has a different past with her country’s national team. Türk has more experience playing against Turkey’s national team while being a member of a high-level club team.
Now, the freshman is joining the senior national team this summer. The guard from Istanbul said the European game differs from the style of basketball in the United States.
“In Europe it’s actually a lot different than here,” Türk said. “I think playing on the national team I will gain a lot of knowledge. Instead of taking the summer off I’ll be playing in Europe, it will benefit me.”
It is a strong contrast from her last summer, which she spent finishing high school in Canada, rather than working with UTRGV’s offseason program. Now her summer can be spent improving her game before returning as a sophomore.
Türk is a jump shooter primarily, and doesn’t expect that to change when she joins Turkey.
“In Turkey I was a shooter. Coaches would say, ‘She’s a shooter, get closer. Play defense closer on her,’” said Türk, who expects the level of competition to be high. “I consider this level as professional. People usually go overseas to play when they finish playing college. I can bring my American game to Europe and combine the two styles of play.”
Türk and Kjartansdόttir look to be large parts of their national team in the summer. They will have the chance to culminate experience and bring it back to UTRGV next fall as Kjartansdόttir returns as a junior and Türk as a sophomore.
UTRGV will look to get over the hump of New Mexico State, a team that has ended their shot at the NCAA tournament two consecutive seasons in the WAC championship game.