Play basketball, see the world
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — In her last season with the Flyers, guard Kelley Austria ’17 contemplated playing pro basketball overseas. That her successful college career was injury-plagued, however, made Austria wary of such global — and challenging — goals.
But the Ohio native has not only been able to reach such heights but also has been able to see parts of the world that are outside the realm of possibility for many Americans. And it’s not lost on Austria that pro basketball careers overseas are not as abundant for American women as they are for men.
“When I was young, my dream was to be a professional basketball player; it’s a blessing to have the opportunity to do that,” said Austria, who was averaging 8.5 points and 1.5 assists in her first 11 Hungarian league games this season.
Not only is Austria getting to play basketball for a living, but her first two seasons overseas have taken her to tourist hot spots in Greece and now Budapest.
“Last season I played for Niki Lefkada, a team on an island in Greece. Greece is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been,” she said. “I’m hoping to have a little off time this season to travel and explore other countries in Europe.”
Hungary, a country of about 10 million people, is about the size of Indiana. Under Communist rule through the late 1980s, it joined the European Union in 2004. Austria has been able to see some of the notable sites in Budapest, including Buda Castle, Castle Hill, St. Stephen’s Basilica and Heroes’ Square.
“When we get free time I’ll watch a lot of Netflix, and I’ll go to a cafe with the other American on the team, walk around fashion street or the square, or
try and find a new place for lunch or dinner. Sometimes we will have team get-togethers on our off days,” Austria said.
“I think the biggest difference in style I have noticed is how much more physical the game is here in Europe. You can get away with things that would definitely be called fouls in college.
“A little challenge I face is the language barrier. Most of the time the coach is speaking and coaching in Hungarian — which can be nice at times because when he is yelling at us I have no idea what he is saying — but thankfully a player on the team is always translating for the Americans.”
Although the Hungarian language is particularly hard for English speakers to learn, nearly every team in Europe has at least one player who speaks English.
“My agent is Hungarian, so he is very familiar with all the teams here. He told me that NKE Csata was interested in me, so I learned more about the team and the city they are in and decided to sign to play with them,” Austria said.
“All my days are very similar,” she added. “I usually always have one practice a day; and two to three times a week, I’ll have morning practice or weights as well as the evening practice. The days can get a little boring, so on off days I try to get out of my apartment and explore a little. The biggest adjustment for me is learning how to live on my own. Living in a different country has been challenging, but it has also been a great experience.”
Austria grew up in Beavercreek, Ohio, and helped UD win Atlantic 10 regular-season titles in 2013 and 2014. She was the A-10 defensive player of the year as a senior in 2017.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today in my basketball career if it wasn’t for my dad,” she said “He taught me the game and has been training and coaching me since I was in fourth grade. I’m grateful for all his time and all the sacrifices he’s made to help me make my basketball dreams become a reality. I’ve also had great coaches throughout my basketball career that have challenged me and pushed me to become a better basketball player and get to the professional level.