Samantha Leach (Mount Sterling, Ohio/Miami Trace), former Saint Francis University women's basketball standout and 2011 Northeast Conference Player of the Year, took this challenge head on when she played for DJK Don Bosco in Bamberg, Germany during the 2011-12 season.
Leach signed mid-season to compete in the German league and had just one week to report to her team after signing a contract. She was forced to quickly adjust to a new country, not to mention new rules on the basketball court.
"The style is a little different," said Leach, the Mount Sterling, Ohio native. "The shot clock is shorter and the distance from the three-point line is further back. Some adjustments are needed for sure. The traveling rules are different too, so the first couple of times I got called for traveling. I had to learn their rules. It takes time."
It didn't take her long to get acquainted with the new style of European play. She scored 13 points and added five rebounds in 26 minutes for her first career professional game on Feb. 11 against Jahn Muenchen. Leach, 5-10, competed in the team's last 11 games, 10 of which were starts. She averaged 12 points and over five rebounds, both good for third on the team.
Her best game of the season came against Viernheim on April 28, when the starting guard dropped 17 points to go along with five rebounds in a 83-78 overtime win. She averaged 23 minutes a game during her brief stint with the club.
Leach has made a habit of winning throughout her collegiate and professional career. During her junior and senior seasons she led Saint Francis to back-to-back NEC championships. In her first season as a pro, Leach helped her DJK Don Bosco team to an 18-2 record and a Bundesliga second-league championship.
"I was so fortunate to win two championships in college and in three short months be on another championship team, " said Leach. "It was an awesome experience and I am thankful for the opportunity."
Leach crossed the pond following a stellar collegiate career at Saint Francis. She was named 2011 NEC Player of the Year, the sixth time in the history of the Red Flash program, and was only the seventh SFU player to score over 1,500 points. Her 17.4 points per game average during her senior season ranks eighth best. The former NEC first-teamer notched double-digit scoring outputs in 28 of 30 games, while scoring over 20 points 10 times. Her 36 points against Robert Morris on Feb. 14, 2011, were a career high and included a program-record 35 points in a half.
While at Saint Francis, Leach worked as hard in the classroom as she did on the court. She accumulated a 3.55 GPA during her academic career and earned a Capital One Academic All-District II First Team honor.
Leach relished the opportunity to show what she could do on an international stage. As far as her plans go for next season, she hopes to step up her level of play and go against tougher competition.
"I definitely want to play next year," said Leach. "I've been in contact with my agent and we talked about things I want to work on and they want me to work on to improve my game. My goal for the next year is to play in the first league and to get an offer somewhere."
Even with all of the challenges that come along with playing professional basketball in a far-off country, Leach felt like she landed in a perfect situation and enjoyed the opportunity.
"I wanted to start somewhere," said Leach. "It worked out well for me. I was glad I took the experience."
Source: Saint Francis Athletics