Melissa Jeltema signs with pro team in Germany

By Ross Maghielse

Melissa Jeltema graduated from Oakland University with a degree in wellness, health promotion and injury prevention, but her first job out of college is to play basketball. The former OU hoops star recently signed a contract to play professionally for the Chemnitz Chemcats in Germany. The contract offer came after Jeltema participated in a three-day European exposure camp, where she was recognized as the camp’s most valuable player.

Jeltema leaves OU as the ninth all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,544 career points. Last season she led the Grizzlies to a second place finish in the Summit League, averaging 15.6 points per game and 7.7 rebounds. In four years at Oakland, Jeltema was selected to two All-Summit League teams and was also a four-time Academic All-Summit League selection.

“We’re really proud of MJ,” OU head coach Beckie Francis said. “Her signing to play in the top division in Germany is a by-product of all her hard work and dedication to the game of basketball. … During her senior year we met once a week to discuss where she would play overseas because there was not a doubt in my mind that she would play professionally.”

For Jeltema, playing at Oakland was a major stepping stone towards her career as a professional athlete.

“I was given a great opportunity at Oakland to play Division I basketball and was able to learn a lot and grow as a player and a person,” Jeltema said. “I’m really excited. Playing overseas has always been a goal of mine and now it’s actually happening.”

Jeltema said she realized her potential to one day play professionally after her sophomore season with Oakland. The offer she received from her German club was one of three offers from interested teams in Europe. Jeltema turned down another offer in Germany with a lower level league in order to play with the Chemcats, a team that recently won a promotion to play in the highest level of German basketball in the Damen Basketball Bundesliga League (DBBL). Yet, for Jeltema, playing against top of the line competition is nothing new.

“Playing a tough schedule (at Oakland) and against bigger schools like UConn, Florida State, Auburn, Georgia, etc. really prepared me to play at the next level,” Jeltema said. “It taught me to respect my opponents, but also that I am tough enough to play at that level.”

Athletics became a major part of Jeltema’s life even prior to high school; where she went on to excel on the hardcourt for Grand Rapids Christian before coming to OU. Once her professional basketball career comes to an end, whenever that time comes, Jeltema said she will return to the United States to work with athletes as either a trainer or coach.

“At this point I am not sure how long I will continue to make basketball my career,” Jeltema said. “I am living in the moment and could not be happier to have been given the ability and opportunities I have been given. We will see what is in store for the next few years as it comes, bur right now , I could not be happier.”

Jeltema’s season in Germany begins Sept. 25.