For a Division I women’s basketball player, there is about a two percent chance of playing professionally. Take a look at an Ivy League school like Penn and factor out the Connecticut players of the world, and that number is even smaller.
But this daunting statistic never came into play for former Penn women’s basketball star Alyssa Baron. The second-leading scorer in program history constantly had a goal in mind, and she was always ready to accomplish it.
“It is what I have trained and practiced for my whole life,” she said.
Instead of going through on-campus recruiting, instead of entering the working world, Baron took up a different day job as a professional basketball player in Israel following graduation in May 2014. And she’s been enjoying it ever since.
Last year, in her first season in the Israeli Basketball League, the 5-foot-11 guard played for Ramat HaSharon, a team that finished fifth out of 10 teams. Personally, she picked up right where she left off with the Quakers.
Baron played in each of the team’s 23 games, scoring in all of them and excelling on both ends of the court. Her numbers were impressive, as she averaged 12.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Despite playing with a three-point line farther away than the standard NCAA distance, the Miami native showed off her shooting prowess from range: She notched 39 threes on 103 attempts, converting 38 percent of her chances from behind the arc.
“You have to play your best basketball everyday to compete with the players here,” Baron said.
And so far, she has shown that she is capable of doing just that. Although her personal stats are noteworthy, Baron especially relished her team’s success.
“Upsetting the eventual league champion, Ashdod, in the semifinals of the Israeli Cup was my favorite moment,” she said. “We were the complete underdogs going in, and no one expected us to win the game because they had beaten us three times.”
However, Baron notes that her team experience in Israel has been quite different than her unique life with the Quakers.
“At Penn, we were literally a giant family,” she said. “Even when we were outside of basketball, we continued to spend time with each other as if we didn’t just spend a whole weekend stuck on a bus to Harvard and Dartmouth for a combined 30 hours.”
Although she says she has built “amazing friendships” overseas, Baron believes the professional lifestyle is much more independent, something that has made her appreciate her time at Penn even more.
“Most days, we practice together, and then everyone is off to do their own thing,” she said.
And after balancing an Ivy League education with basketball for four years, Baron has found she has a lot more free time to do as she wishes.
Off the court, Baron does a good job keeping in touch with other Penn graduates who are playing overseas, including Zack Rosen, Miles Cartwright and Fran Dougherty. She also keeps up with her former Red and Blue squad, chatting with old teammates and watching some of the Quakers’ games despite the time change.
When her season ended, Baron continued to train, but also was able to pursue outside interests, including mentoring younger athletes, traveling and playing with her new puppy, who will make the trip back to Israel with her this year.
“I enjoy working with young kids and try to serve as a role model, especially to young girls that are aspiring professional basketball players,” she said.
As for the 2015-16 season, Baron will return to her same team, which plays in a city about ten minutes north of Tel Aviv.
For the future after that, Baron is keeping an open mind. She would love to take her talents to another country — possibly Italy, Spain or France — or maybe eventually pursue a career in sports broadcasting.
“I have no set plans,” she said. “I had a good year personally, which I am looking to build on this coming season. I’m just enjoying playing the sport I love as my career.”
Right now, it’s clear the former Penn star is focused on making the most of the opportunity for she has worked so hard — the chance to be part of an elite group of women’s basketball players who pursue athletics at a professional level, the two percent.Comments powered by Disqus
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