Photos from Kristin Turk
Former Bulldog standout Kristin Turk has had no problem adjusting to professional basketball in Sweden. The former Missouri Valley Conference All-First team selection averaged 21.4 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds per game in her first season with Mark Basket.
After taking the league by surprise and reaching the Swedish league semifinals in her debut season, Turk took some time to talk about her life in Sweden.
Times-Delphic: What were you thinking when you arrived in Sweden?
Kristin Turk: Getting on that airplane was a long-awaited moment for me. From the time I left to about two weeks into my stay here, I remembered being pretty emotionless. I didn’t really know how to feel, so I tried not to get too sad about leaving or too anxious about arriving. I couldn’t sleep on the plane ride over, so when I arrived, I remember just being very tired.
TD: Were you nervous meeting your teammates and coaches for the first time?
KT: I was pretty nervous to meet them, just because it was a completely foreign environment to me. I met them all at practice on my first day there, and I was a little lost, but everyone was very welcoming to me.
TD: Is there a language barrier between you and some of your teammates/coaches?
KT: Everyone here under the age of 60 speaks English. Most of the basketball instruction is done in English, just so I know what’s going on. The only issues I have are if someone is not speaking directly to me, I am often lost in the conversation. I am picking up on more and more Swedish every day, though. Sometimes I even understand full conversations; I just don’t speak it very well.
TD: What has been the toughest thing to get used to in Sweden?
KT: The food and the language have been the two toughest things to get used to. When I first came here, it was around Christmas, so they were eating a lot of Christmas foods. This included a lot of sill, or pickled herring. I hate fish and anything pickled or raw, so just the thought of it sickened me. I have since found that the food is not so different here. It just takes a little getting used to. The language was rough because I’ve never really been somewhere that I didn’t always know what was going on. There were times I’d be in a car with teammates, and I couldn’t pick up on even one word they were saying. I’ve honestly felt like a dog listening to humans speak at times.
TD: First game of your pro career. What were you feeling right before you stepped on the court? Were you nervous?
KT: My first game was against the worst team in the league, Jarfalla. I remember right before the game the coach asking me if I was nervous, and I wasn’t at all. She thought it might be a little better if I was a bit nervous, but I am a confident player, and I didn’t want to let the fact that I was playing in a different country change that about me.
TD: You had a terrific first game, came out and shot the lights out. What did that do to your confidence going forward the rest of the season?
KT: I went out with a lot of confidence and shot three 3-pointers from the same spot — hitting all three. I then had to make sure everyone knew that I don’t always start games like that.
TD: Did you ever think, at some point in your time there, maybe I shouldn’t be here? Have you regretted your decision to play abroad?
KT: My time here hasn’t been flawless. I’m pretty sure no one comes to a foreign country to play and has a flawless experience, but I have never regretted my decision to play. I have had a great experience since I’ve been here, and I am so fortunate that I ended up where I did. I have been put in a very good situation playing for a very good club, and it’s been 90 percent positive. I think the things that you regret the most in life are the things you do not do. So even if I would have come here and had a terrible experience, I still would have been happy knowing that I tried.
TD: What’s the biggest difference between playing collegiate basketball in the U.S. and playing professional European basketball?
KT: I think the biggest difference for me has been the refereeing and the physicality of the game over here. In our league, we only use two refs, which makes it a lot more physical game. I’ve gotten hit in the face while standing still and holding the ball on several occasions and not gotten any calls. I tend to like a little more physical game, but the refereeing can get frustrating at times.
TD: How have you dealt with your success and your team’s success so far?
KT: My team and the town that I live in are both extremely excited about our success. We finished the regular season with the best record/standing in club history at fourth place. The success seems to just keep coming, and the town couldn’t be happier. We are fortunate enough to have great support and have the second highest attendance in the league. Not bad for a small country town.
TD: I know you were featured in the town’s newspaper. What was that like? How does it feel to already have had an impact on the team and on the league?
KT: I’ve actually been featured in a few newspapers around Sweden, which has been really cool. I think a lot of papers were immediately intrigued by the fact that I wear a mask when I play, so some papers focused on that initially. After I had some big games, I had some more articles written about me, but I really just feel fortunate that the team that I play for is getting national recognition for the hard work they’ve put in. There are so many volunteers and sponsors that help our team run smoothly, so it’s great to see what they’ve done for us pay off by giving Mark national attention.
TD: What has been the most interesting thing about Sweden? Tell me about their culture. What is Sweden like?
KT: The most interesting thing about Sweden has been the social and political aspect of it all. Sweden is a much more liberal country than the United States and a lot more accepting of different people. I love the United States, but I do think they could learn a thing or two from Sweden.
TD: I know you’ve been following Drake basketball. Has it been strange to follow the team from so far away?
KT: It has been a little bit strange to listen to the games rather than watch the girls play. The time change also really affects whether or not I can listen to the games. I am seven hours ahead, so any weeknight game is played during prime sleeping hours. I also really enjoy the atmosphere of Drake games and being around all of the wonderful people connected with the program, so I am sad that I can’t be a part of that experience. I am fortunate that I was able to do radio (announcing) for a few games before I left, so I did get to see the Bulldogs in action at least a few times this year.
TD: Do you stay in contact much with your old teammates and with your former coach, Amy Stephens?
KT: Yes. I talk to Coach Stephens quite a bit through text messaging and keep in touch with most of my teammates through Facebook or Twitter. I am truly fortunate that I’ve grown up in an age with such great technology. I know when Coach Stephens played, her phone bills were outrageous, and I’m really glad I don’t have to worry about that.
TD: What are your plans for next year?
KT: I am not sure what my plans are for next year yet. I do know that I will play at least another season, I’m just not sure where. I have spoken to my agent a little bit about places that interest me, but I will still consider coming back to Sweden. I have had a positive experience here, and I’m definitely not ready for my basketball career to be over yet.