Former Cyclone forward Hallie Christofferson just wrapped up her professional basketball career after two seasons of overseas competition. Christofferson spent her first season in Austria with the Flying Foxes SVS Post in Vienna, Austria where she won the Austrian Cup and Austrian League Championship while being named league MVP. She followed her successful stint in Austria with an undefeated season in Athens, Greece with Olympiacos. She was named to the All-Greek First-Team and named Forward of the Year, Co-Newcomer of the Year and to the All-Defensive Team.
Now that you just finished two seasons of professional basketball overseas. What did you take away from both of those experiences?
I went overseas really without knowing what to expect, so everything I did over there was something new to me. I grew as a player, but more importantly I grew as a person. I had never lived by myself prior to last year, so just doing things alone was new to me as well. It forced me to be even more independent, but I still knew that family and friends were just a FaceTime call away in case I felt homesick.
How did playing for Iowa State prepare you for overseas basketball?
Playing at ISU gave me the basketball knowledge to continue at the next level and both the mental and physical strength necessary to compete with the best athletes overseas. During summers prior to going overseas, I would continue to do workout programs that I did in college in order to prepare for the next season. I knew that if I ever needed something, the coaches were more than willing to help me out as best they could.
How long are your seasons overseas? Is it much different than college basketball?
For Austria, I left the States mid-September and returned back home the last week of April. We also got close to 10 days off to fly home for Christmas. For Greece, I left September 1st and returned home in mid-May, and we got about five days at home for Christmas. The seasons are much longer than college basketball, but not necessarily the amount of games we played. In Greece we only played one game a week, so there was a lot more practice than in college.
What are some differences on the court from basketball in Europe to NCAA women’s basketball? Was it difficult adjusting?
The biggest difference was playing four quarters instead of two halves, like I did in college. And the fact that there’s only two refs instead of three per game. Which factored into the more physical game play. Other than that, it’s the same game, so no, I can’t say that it was too difficult adjusting.
Both of your teams you played on seemed to have quite a bit of success. Can you talk a little about that?
Yes, we were very successful as a team both of my years. Flying Foxes had won the league for the last eight years, so when I was there, we made it nine. Olympiacos is one of the oldest clubs in Greece, but this was the first year they had a women’s basketball team. Therefore, everything we did was historic. Not only did we go undefeated, but winning two championships our first year as a club set the foundation for the years to come. It’s also pretty neat that I get to say I helped start that.
Talk about a typical day for you playing overseas. How often do you practice and what are practices and preparation like compared to ISU?
In Austria, we would practice once a day, and if we didn’t play on the weekends, we would have those days off. We then typically had the day after a game off as well. Practices were pretty laid back, for a couple hours. They included a lot of shooting and up and down drills. We didn’t do any form of scouting for games, but after playing each team the first round, we knew what to expect for the rest of the season. In Greece, the league was more competitive than Austria. We had two-a-days in the mornings for two days a week and practiced in the afternoons daily. We had the day after a game off. Team lifting/shooting would be done in morning practices or sometimes after practice in the afternoon. We watched video and went over scouting reports for the opposing team a couple days prior to the game. This system was more similar to ISU than Austria was, but still very different from college ball.
How were your teammates? Were there a lot of locals on the team that could show you around or were you off on your own a lot? Do you still keep in touch with the girls on your teams?
On both teams, there were two Americans. Everyone else was from the country or neighboring countries. All the girls knew the area and were able to show us around if we wanted. I did a lot of exploring on my own or when family and friends came to visit me. There are some I still keep in contact with. Social media helps bridge the gap between time zones and makes you feel like you’re still close, even though geographically, you’re not close at all.
Were there any striking cultural differences in Greece and Austria, or did you not have much trouble assimilating?
Europe in general is very different than the States. Right away when I landed in the airport, I could see noticeable differences (and hear noticeable differences, i.e. language). I was pretty open minded going into the experience, and I’m pretty “go with the flow” attitude, so I just went with it from landing until the end of the season.
While you were in Europe, did you get the opportunity to travel much? Maybe to interesting historical places, different countries?
In Austria we played in the CEWL, which led us to travel outside of Austria. Throughout the season I got to travel to Prague, Czech Republic; Slovakia, Bratislava; Budapest, Hungary; Salzburg, Graz, Austria. With the Olympiacos, we did a preseason tournament in Istanbul, Turkey. The rest of the season was just played in Greece, but I got to travel to Thessaloniki, the island of Kos, and the island of Lefkada. Not to mentione sightseeing many things in Athens: Acropolis (Parthenon), Panathenaic Stadium (first Olympics were held), visiting Syntagma Square, Plaka, and Monastiraki. After the season was over and I was waiting for my plane ticket home, I would walk or take the tram about ten minutes to the Mediterranean Sea and hang out on the beach.
I’ve heard when a lot of basketball players go overseas, they have trouble adjusting to the cuisine and live mostly off care packages from the U.S. Did you have any trouble with food? If not, what were some of your favorite dishes and did you ever encounter a food or dish that was too much for you?
In both countries I never had any problem with the food. I was open to try new things and usually made meals with ingredients from the grocery store or market. In Austria, putting corn on pizza was something I’d never done before, and I’m still surprised we don’t do that here in Iowa. I also loved the spätzle. It’s basically their version of mac and cheese. Cafes were all over the place, and you drank your coffee (hot chocolate for me) and ate it with some kind of dessert. Whenever friends or family visited me, we had dessert at least once a day for about a week straight. In Greece, I had a lot of souvlaki (meat on a stick, kabob) and gyros. I also came to love Greek salad, with tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese in an oil dressing. There was never something I really didn’t like, besides olives, and I knew that before I went to Greece. Overseas, I did miss my favorite candy, Twizzlers, and requested them every time my mom mentioned sending me a care package.
What was the best part about playing overseas and the most difficult part?
The best part was being able to continue to play basketball. I wasn’t quite ready to hang up my shoes after playing at ISU, and getting those two opportunities really put the finishing touches on my career. The most difficult part was being away from my family and friends for such a long time. Missing holidays, birthdays, any other time I just wanted to go visit someone, I couldn’t. It made me realize and appreciate them more once I came back to the States.
What’s next for you now that you’ve wrapped up your pro career?
The plan is to head down to New Orleans to pursue my career in graphic design. I’m ready to open a new chapter, in new surroundings. However, it’s safe to say that the state of Iowa and Cyclone Nation will always hold a special place in my heart, bleeding Cardinal and Gold for life.