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UWRF athlete takes her talents abroad

September 21, 2016

While most UW-River Falls athletes spend their summer away from competition, one Falcon basketball player experienced the trip of a lifetime while playing with the most talented Div. III basketball players in Brazil.

Junior forward Taylor Karge was selected to the USA Div. III Women’s Basketball Team for its Brazil tour that ran from July 19-28 this past summer. She was joined by nine other Div. III players who set off for stops in Orlando, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Taylor Karge
Taylor Karge, junior, holds the U.S. flag while in Brazil playing for the USA Div. III women’s basketball team. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Karge)

The team came together with little time to prepare and learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Being in such a new situation and adjusting to international rules were challenges Karge knew the team would have to overcome.

“The last time I had to be in a new situation was [at UWRF] a couple of years ago,” Karge said. “I was nervous about meeting other personalities and how, with so much talent going down [to Brazil], I didn’t know how I would fit into the group, but everyone meshed really well.”

The team left Orlando after two days and were on their away to São Paulo, Brazil. Having never left the United States before, Karge said that she definitely experienced a culture shock once arriving in the Portuguese-speaking country.

“They do things very differently down there. We had a translator along though which helped a lot, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to even order my own lunch,” Karge said.

Even though the sights were unfamiliar, there was still basketball to be played.  The USA squad first squared off against a selected U-22 team from the São Paulo area. However, the 10 U.S. players soon realized this wasn’t the same style of basketball played back in the states.

“They play a very physical style of basketball down there. The NCAA tries to make the game as ‘unphysical’ as possible where anything is a touch foul, but these teams were really athletic,” Karge said.

The language barrier was also a factor, with players unable to discuss calls with refs unless they wanted to get responses in Portuguese. The U.S. team dropped their first game by ten points, but rebounded to win two of their last three games on the trip.

By the second game the team seemed to be coming together, and they took down a top professional team in Brazil by two points. And while these professional teams definitely are nor like the teams U.S. fans are used to seeing, they were still talented teams.

“Three of the teams we played were really good and would match up well against WIAC teams.  I was amazed how good the inner-city Rio team we played was, considering the neighborhood the whole team came from,” Karge said.

Besides basketball, the team had the chance to enjoy Rio in the days leading up to the Olympic Games.  Holding the Olympic torch and being down the street from the Olympic beach volleyball stadium were some highlights, but none compared to the Christ the Redeemer landmark for Karge. When asked to describe it, her response was simply, “breathtaking.”

As the trip of a lifetime fades away and a new Falcon basketball season approaches, Karge now has time to dial in and reflect on what this trip did for her skills. Although the trip was only 10 days, she’s already seeing aspects of her game that have improved for the upcoming season.

“Always my main priority [at UWRF] has been scoring, but with this new team I had to learn to impact the game in other ways. I became a better rebounder and learned to play with different personalities and talents,” Karge said.

This experience can only help build on an already impressive career with the Falcons as Karge returns as the team’s leading scorer. Coming off a magical 23-6 season and losing only one key player in senior captain Richell Mehus, the Falcons now are looking to make the next step.

Karge said, “No one was expecting us to be good last year and we kind of came out of nowhere. Now we know we have a target on our back and we can’t take anything for granted.”

With practices getting underway in a little less than a month, another season is just on the horizon. One advantage for Karge compared to her Brazilian trip will be this: she will at least be able to speak the referee’s language. Karge and the Falcons open their 2016-2017 season Nov. 15 at Carleton College.