Golden Grizzlies rep in Europe


Nowshin Chowdhury

Then-seniors Elena Popkey (left) and Olivia Nash (right), stand with OU women’s basketball head coach Jeff Tungate.

Playing basketball at the collegiate level is certainly an accomplishment, but continuing to the international circuit is a dream for athletes. This aspiration has become a reality for 2016 Oakland alumni Olivia Nash and Elena Popkey.

These former Golden Grizzlies have been overseas for four months, and The Oakland Post caught up with them over email for an update. Answers have been edited for grammar.

Question: What team are you playing for? 
Nash: Currently, I play for Vimpelin Veto out of Vimpeli Finland. 
Popkey: Bad Homburg Germany Falcons.

Q: Why did you decide to sign with this team?
Nash: I decided to sign with this team because they’re in the top women’s Finnish league. I was able to communicate and build a connection with the coaches and team before my final decision, so that was important to me. They answered any questions or concerns that I had.
Popkey: I talked and prayed with a lot of my family and mentors. I talked to my agent and the head coach of the program, as well, and had peace about the decision.

Q: How has the transition from college basketball to league play been?
Nash: It’s been different in regards to the new culture and language barrier. My everyday routine is different than it was in college, and I found the league to be very competitive. 
Popkey: In Europe, they have some different rules and regulations that I’ve had to adapt to. But there hasn’t been anything too dramatic. Olivia and I have trained hard and prepared ourselves as best as we knew how, so the transition hasn’t been too difficult.

Q: How did your career at Oakland help prepare you for your current role? 
Nash: It’s helped prepare me in terms of work ethic. I wouldn’t have made it this far if I wasn’t pushed daily by my teammates and coaches while I attended Oakland.
Popkey: At Oakland I was a captain for three years and starting point guard for four. The triumphs and the trials I experienced in my leadership position were the best training lessons for my career overseas.

Q: What challenges do you face?
Nash: My game-day routine is quite a bit different here, given the circumstances. Also, it was a challenge to adjust to the Finnish language, along with communicating on the court with teammates and coaches. 
Popkey: Communication on the court is probably one of the most difficult challenges. There’s a lot of basketball lingo that doesn’t always translate.

What’s the one thing you miss most about home? 
Nash: I miss my family and friends the most. Also, good American food! 

Popkey: The people. I’m incredibly blessed and surrounded by amazing friends and family back home. I miss them so much, but I’m thankful for technology that can keep us in constant communication. Besides the people . . . I miss the food . . . especially Mexican food.

Q: How is the team/game dynamic different from Oakland? 
Nash: The team/game dynamic and chemistry here took a little longer to develop, given the language barrier and other team changes throughout the season, but we are all really close, just like the team at Oakland. 
Popkey: The team dynamic is very different here because our age range is a lot more vast than it is in college. Our team ranges from ages 16 to 36, where in college the biggest age gap was maybe 17 to 23. People are in all different walks of life here, which can be challenging for team chemistry. However, I think our team does a good job of connecting.

Q: What are your plans for the future? 
Nash: Future plans are currently to win a championship here, then return home for the summer and train for next season!
Popkey: I plan on playing in Europe again next year, but I’m not sure where at the moment. Just praying about it and training my mind, body and spirit in the meantime.