Meet Masha Adashchyk:
Meet Masha Adashchyk:
Up first, it's Masha Adashchyk, A 5'11 guard from Minsk, Belarus. She spent the last two seasons playing for Panola College in Carthage, Texas, where she averaged 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per contest in her two seasons and helped the Fillies reach the NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in her freshman campaign.
GopherSports.com: What was life like growing up in Belarus?
Masha Adashchyk: "It was like everybody's. I had my parents, I went to school. I had played basketball since I was 10 or maybe I was 11. For Americans that's probably pretty late, but a lot of girls usually start at this age when they play basketball in Belarus. It started just like some hobby; I didn't think I would be a professional or something, but my coach was different. He was a fan of basketball, every day he was teaching us. He didn't actually have a good salary for this -- he was working at a different job -- but at the same time he was spending every day with us for a few hours, so I really appreciate him for that."
GS: Was the main reason why you came to America for basketball?
MA: "I would say it was because of basketball. I had heard from an early age of 12 or 13 that basketball in America was really cool and amazing, and our coach has shown us NBA games and WNBA games and just telling us about it, but it just wasn't real when someone would just tell you about it. But when it actually happened, it's been my dream to come to America I would say, so when I actually got my visa, I actually started crying because I couldn't believe it happened. I applied for all of the documents for Panola College, and I had been working on it since like April, and then for all of this to actually make a visa and for me to have it, I was just like 'wow,' so I called my parents and stuff like that. My mom was happy for me, but she didn't want me to go so far from home. My dad was really happy, he wanted me to go as far as I can and to go where I need to do what I want. It was a dream come true."
GS: Did it take time to adjust to American life?
MA: "I actually came to America two years before coming here to play basketball, it was also because of basketball. We had this social program called Strong Women, and every year we change sports, that year in 2015 it was basketball, so all the players from the country that were girls would come in and take part in different events, take classes. On this trip we went to the Final Four in Tampa, Fla., and it was amazing. It was actually the first time I had actually seen Division I basketball, and I was very excited about it, but also very surprised because when you just hear about it it's one thing, but when you actually see it it's completely different. I understand why the national team of America is one of the best in the world, because even just the kids from universities play better than our professional players in Belarus. So I was just comparing them and thinking, 'wow, I know where I need to go.'
I was already thinking about going to America at that time, like after the trip I really wanted to do it, but I just didn't know how. So that's why it took me three years to finally come to America. The transition was pretty easy in some ways, because we have a lot of international students in Panola, like basketball players, so I was with them and it was helpful. It's taken me awhile to understand people better. I didn't understand people at the beginning, but my language has gotten better and better with every day when I was here. Texas has very friendly people, it's almost like crazy for me. But I just adjusted and became the same way. I really started to socialize better with people. It was really good."
GS: How was your experience at Panola?
MA: "Yes, I liked it there. People were always ready to help and did help, I found a lot of friends, I found my American family there. I liked moving on from there because it was really small, like 6,000 people, I was just bored. It's really different here because I can just go somewhere and do something, and not just go two houses down and three minutes away. I can actually see something new, environment, literature. Minnesota is very similar to Belarus, which is what I like. Texas I didn't see snow, well I did, but after one day it was gone. Here I get to see real snow."
GS: You scored 50 points in your final game at Panola. What was going on that night?
MA: "I didn't expect it. It was like, if we win we go on to the next game, if we lose we're done, and I was a sophomore, so for me it was my last game. I was just trying my best to give myself to the game, and I wouldn't say I was playing a different style than I usually do, but that game everything was just working and the defenders just couldn't stop me. I was going to the basket so easily and making shots. It was really sad because we ended up losing in overtime, and I cried. I would say on one hand it's a nice way to end my career at Panola, but on the other hand that loss was just really sad."
GS: So leaving Panola, how did you end up here at Minnesota?
MA: "I like the coaches. I mean, Lindsay Whalen, of course everybody mentions her, and I was excited when I found out who was the head coach here. I really liked her when we spoke on the phone, I just really liked it. I remember our first conversation and she was just like, 'Hello, how are you?' but in Russian, and I definitely did not expect that. I knew she played in Russia but I never thought she could actually speak Russian, so I was just like, 'Okay, I can work with this.' I really like the other coaches, too. I was really close with Coach Danielle [O'Banion] because she was actually the person who found me and introduced me to the team.
"I like the atmosphere here, I like that it's a big school, I like where this school is, I like my connection with the coaches. Another thing I really like about Minnesota is that they all have a very high goal. Our goal is the national tournament, so we will work for this. A lot of schools would tell me, you'll be able to play here a lot, we need you. For me, that's something I already knew. You wouldn't try to sign my if you didn't need me. But here, they told me it would be harder for me to play here. I feel like that's better for me as a player, I like that challenge. I want to prove myself. Of course I will have new friends, I will have a new family, this will be my new family, but I want to challenge myself. It will make me stronger and I have a goal to play pro, so this will be really helpful."
GS: How would you describe yourself as a player?
MA: "I would say I'm a team player, but I will take my chance to go to the basket. I will try my best, I will play aggressive, maybe sometimes too aggressive, but I will give myself to the game and I will show what I can and I will help my team to win. I support my team, but I'm not the player who's excited to sit on the bench. I want to be out there, I want to play. That's why this is such a big challenge, because there are so many good players and you need to show what you can do better."