Before Hallie Christofferson returned to Vienna, Austria where she plays professionally, I wanted to catch up with her and take a glimpse into her time so far in Austria.
Cyclone Sidebar: What was it like when you first moved to Austria? Did you have any expectations before moving there?
Hallie Christofferson: At first I didn’t really know what to expect. When I got there I didn’t have a car and we had to figure out how to use the public transportation system and that was completely different with underground trains and buses. There are so many people there. I think that close to three million people is the population of Vienna. There are people everywhere you go. I like being so close to everything. Our gym is only about five or six blocks away. It’s nice to just be able to walk there. I think people like living there and they are happy about living there so the quality of life is really high. It’s a little tough when you don’t know German, but you start to pick up on a few things. You can get by with a few words. From a basketball standpoint it has been such a great opportunity to get to go to other countries and play. Our team is really nice and they always try to help you out. We [Jaterra Bonds, who is a former Florida player] are kind of the younger girls on the team. The other girls have been playing for a while. There is good team chemistry, which I wasn’t sure I would have that right off the bat since we were just starting to play with them.
CS: Are there any cultural differences that struck you when you first moved to Vienna? Was it a difficult adjustment?
HC: It wasn’t really difficult, but people walk everywhere over there and they are very environmentally conscious. You recycle everything and you take your own bags to the grocery store. They don’t have plastic bags anymore that you get for free. You have to buy them. I went with a teammate the weekend of Dec. 6 and apparently it’s a custom that St. Nicholas comes. My teammate has a daughter and it was cool to see the package that St. Nick leaves on their shoes. That was something different that we don’t do here.
CS: Have your Austrian teammates helped you and Jaterra adjust?
HC: Jaterra and I do everything together. We go places together just so we can figure it out together. When we got to Austria, we got an Austrian phone so we can reach anybody anytime if we ever have a question. Our teammates want to help and are willing to talk to you. They all know English very well. They learn it when they’re very young and it’s fluent for them. Our coach is from Hungary and he speaks Hungarian and German so his English isn’t his best. My teammates will try to translate different things for him.
CS: Your team has been very successful this season. Can you talk about how the season has gone for you so far?
HC: Me and one other girl are basically the tallest players we have so it’s like going back to the basics and what we’ve learned all through the years. A lot of the Austrian teams don’t really have other American import players so we are just playing against other Austrians and people from the area. But in the CEWL, there’s more competition because they have American players. Just sticking with the basics is mostly what we do.
CS: Where are you in your season? And your team has won quite a few championships in Austria, do you feel any pressure to repeat again?
HC: We are about halfway through our season so we have about 15 more games and then I think there’s an Austrian Cup and the Austrian Finals. I think we have actually won eight in a row. I think a lot of the teams want to go and beat us, but there’s not really pressure. It’s just another game.
CS: Individually you have almost led your team in scoring every game. Has that surprised you at all?
HC: We have three girls who are about my height on the team. All the other girls are either 6-foot tall or less. That’s definitely helped. Our offense has people that can score anywhere on the floor. I always go for the boards. I guess I was kind of surprised. I didn’t know what to expect going in. I was pleasantly surprised.
CS: How did playing for Iowa State prepare you to play professionally?
HC: It definitely got me up to the level that I needed to be. Coach Fennelly was a big part of that and pushing us every day and all of the other assistant coaches as well. It just helped me continue with my work ethic and studies helped as well by just focusing on something else, doing it and going out an pursuing it. If I ever have a question about anything [the ISU coaches] will still answer it the best they can and I can still talk to them anytime. I am very grateful for the relationship that I have built there.
CS: Have you been able to watch any Iowa State games this season? Do you try and tune in while you are in Austria?
HC: I think I caught one on Sunday with my parent’s Cyclones.tv subscription. The early games are the ones that I can catch because it’s not too late over there with the time difference. It’s so weird not running out on the floor and being in the stands. I was with Chelsea [Poppens] and Elly [Arganbright] [for the Fairfield game] and they said the exact same thing. Even though Pop is two years out she said she still feels like she should be down there. It’s weird talking with all the fans because you never get to do that while you’re out there playing. Just seeing them and putting names to faces was really nice too.
CS: What’s next for Hallie Christofferson?
HC: That’s kind of a big question mark. I really don’t know. I guess the [WNBA] training camps in May if I get the opportunity. If not, I will probably just continue to work out and do what I did last summer and maybe play another year or so overseas if I am still healthy.