It was a fitting end to a career: a huge win over Princeton to clinch the Ivy League title, followed by the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003-2004.
Most players would decide to hang up their shoes after such a successful career, but Alyssa Baron has never been most players.
After finishing her career second all-time in scoring for the Quakers, one of Penn’s most decorated stars will continue her basketball journey overseas, hoping to play in Israel next year.
For the 2014 Penn graduate, continuing to play basketball was never much of a question.
“I knew I always wanted to keep playing,” Baron said. “I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but once I finished at Penn I knew I didn’t want to stop playing.”
Towards the end of her senior year, Baron sought out an agency to help turn that dream into a reality. She signed with Sports International Group, one of the premier agency groups in women’s basketball.
The agency also handles the business of a wide range of WNBA players, from well-known stars like Candace Parker and Angel McCoughtry to recent graduates like Odyssey Sims and Chiney Ogwumike.
Women’s basketball has an unusual precedent of having players compete for other teams in the offseason, as WNBA players migrate overseas to continue to play and make higher salaries.
The Israeli league where Baron hopes to land, the Israeli Female Basketball Premier League, is a common destination for top WNBA players during the fall.
However the league has a team-building provision: teams can only have two Americans per team. This helps to keep teams balanced, yet also limits the opportunities for U.S. players to find roster spots.
Yet, Baron is in a unique situation as she can gain Israeli citizenship through her Jewish heritage that will allow her to count as a non-American in terms of the roster rules.
“[Citizenship] helps when you play overseas, since it makes you more valuable because teams are only allowed two Americans,” Baron said.
Throughout the process, Baron has been in touch with a number of former Penn players with European experience. Zack Rosen, one of the best players to pass through the Palestra in the past decade, currently plays for an Israeli team and has been providing guidance to Baron and other Quakers seeking to play overseas.
“I’ve been in touch with a couple of people who play there, and I’ve talked to Zack Rosen, he’s been helping me out,” Baron said.
“Basically, I wait now and probably won’t find out which team I’ll be on until the end of August because they’ll want to sign the WNBA players first and then put me on the team where I’ll get the most playing time and the best fit for me.”
Of course, with the opportunity to play overseas, Baron will have to adjust to living in another country as well. Though Israel is admittedly one of the more Americanized locations that the guard could end up, there will certainly be some differences.
However Baron is much more focused on the upsides of being able to play professionally than anything else.
“I’ve been [to Israel] before, so I have an idea of how it’s going to be. It’s certainly going to be tough moving to a new country and not knowing the main language, even though almost everyone there speaks English,” Baron said.
“It’s definitely going to be different from playing college basketball, playing professionally and getting paid. I’m really excited for it.”
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