Basketball, Profiles, Sports

International athlete thriving in new environment

Going from high-school athlete to college athlete can be quite the adjustment. Growing up in Europe and having just one year of experience in the United States before college can make things even more difficult. International guard Sarah Mortensen embraced the challenge just a couple of years ago.

Mortensen grew up playing basketball in Copenhagen, Denmark. Both of her parents played basketball when they were younger, and her brother now plays Division II basketball at Barry University. As Mortensen developed her skills, playing college basketball in America became an option.

“Some coaches told me that I would be able to go to college and play at a high level,” Mortensen said. “I had always been working hard and when I was about 13 years old and playing in Europe, I thought maybe I can go for the dream and take the big step to come over here.”

She took that step and moved to Long Island for her senior year of high school.

“I wanted to get the adjustment before college, especially with language, staying away from home and being comfortable being over here,” Mortensen said. “I got a lot better in school English-wise and had a good, tough coach who knew a lot of colleges.”

Mortensen said she found American life to be much different than life back in Denmark.

“It was kind of like starting over,” Mortensen said. “I went there and no one knew me. I just had to show who I was and make friends. Now it’s amazing because I still talk to many of them.”

Mortensen played well her senior year and was named the Long Island Player of the Year and to the All-Metro First Team after averaging 22.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and three assists per game. Her impressive performance earned her offers from a number of schools including Boston College, George Washington University and Virginia Tech. After speaking to Head Coach Katie Meier, Mortensen ultimately chose Miami for the team’s competitive spirit and ability to challenge her. The 6-foot-1 guard said she is most eager to improve her quickness on the court, especially on defense.

“With the team, everyone is ready to help you and they are all competitive,” Mortensen said. “They all want to play all the time and work hard for it. That’s how I am and it is awesome to be surrounded by people like that as well.”

Even though life changes have yielded positive results for Mortensen, the move to Miami is still an adjustment-in-progress. For Mortensen, the most difficult part is being away from her family, but she keeps in close contact with them through video chats and social media.

Mortensen also had to get used to UM’s style of basketball, which varies slightly from the Danish style.

“It’s actually similar with what Coach Meier teaches,” Mortensen said. “A lot of spacing, passing, cutting in different systems, but people are stronger here. You have to be quicker and smarter, really see who you are matching up with.”

Regardless of the challenges, Mortensen is getting what she wanted most since she chose to move to America as a rising senior in high school.

“Over here it is so much more basketball, everyone knows what basketball is and what it’s about,” Mortensen said. “Being the best and competing against the best, that’s the dream. Coming over here and being in a competitive environment to play with and against really good players is what I like about it.”

She has been enjoying her first year of college life as well.

“I like how it’s school, basketball and when I need to sleep, I sleep,” Mortensen said with a smile.

November 2, 2016

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Isaiah Kim-Martinez

Isaiah Kim-Martinez can be reached on Twitter at @isaiah_km.


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