Hanks hoops it up across the world
VAIL – In the past three years, Katharine Hanks has worked in Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia. Hanks doesn’t work for the State Department – she plays professional basketball.But before Hanks traveled the world playing the sport she loves, she worked stateside doing the same thing with the Detroit Shock of the WNBA. During Hanks’ senior year at Dartmouth College, she didn’t have the typical job search.”I started getting contacted by agents,” Hanks said. “I thought, ‘Well maybe I can do this.’ I got a tryout with the Shock.”I ended up getting cut, and said, ‘OK, I’ll try Europe.’ I can go travel, play basketball and get paid. It doesn’t get much better than that.”So far, Hanks has picked up a MVP award at the Portuguese Cup Championship, her first career triple-double and a bunch of frequent flyer miles.This summer, for the first time since her days at Dartmouth, Hanks is spending a long stretch of time with her family in Vail.”Usually I’m home for two or three days between countries,” Hanks said.Hanks’ parents, who moved to the area three years ago, shouldn’t get too used to her being home, as she plans on heading overseas come September.
“I hired a new agent, so hopefully this agent will get me something that’s really good.” Hanks said. “My top-three choices would be France, Italy and Spain. Those and Russia are the top-four leagues in Europe.”From power to finesseWhen Hanks made the transition from college to professional basketball, she had to move away from her post position.”I got to the WNBA and they said, ‘You are too small,'” Hanks said. “I was playing against Karl Malone’s daughter (Cheryl Ford), who was about 1 inch taller than me, and a good 50 pounds heavier. That’s a lot of weight to move.”After Hanks’ stint in the WNBA, she got a tryout with a team in Italy.”I had never seen European basketball,” Hanks said. “I didn’t know a thing about it. It’s a different game. Everyone shoots. I’ve never shot so many 3-pointers.”Hanks, who was advised by her college coach not to leave the paint, sunk six shots from beyond the arc in one game, which is even more impressive considering the line is further back in Europe.Most of the teams Hank has played for, however, have been looking for her to rack up the points.
“They hire foreigners to be the main scorers,” Hanks said. “I’m expected to have 20 to 25 points a game. Most of the plays are run for me.”And her American-style of play, mixed with her European experience, has brought her a considerable amount of success.”I’ve always been quicker than a lot of people my size, so that helps. And it fits in well with the European game,” Hanks said.Fala Portugues?Hanks enjoyed her first full season out of college when she signed on with a team in Portugal, but met a bit of a language barrier.”I speak Spanish, but I don’t speak Portuguese,” Hanks said. “I get there, and not many people speak English. Each team is allowed two foreigners, and you usually get two Americans, but the other foreigner was from Brazil and she didn’t speak any English.”Fortunately for Hanks, two of the Portuguese players had gone to college in the United States and could speak English. But that didn’t save Hanks from a few embarrassing moments.”When we were in the finals and won the Portuguese Cup, I got MVP, but I didn’t know what they were saying,” Hanks said. “They were announcing the awards and I was standing there. The girl next to me said, ‘Kat, go get your trophy.'”
There were other times, however, when Hanks had trouble hearing, but for a good reason.”You’ve seen the (European) soccer fans. These people are nuts,” Hanks said. “It was so loud, you had to scream to hear each other. You don’t get that in college. People brought drums and cymbals and were waving giant flags around.”While in Switzerland, Hanks had another language challenge when she went to teach a clinic basketball clinic.”I went to the camp with a guy for the first two weeks, and it was fine,” Hanks said. “I go the third week, and the guy’s not there. It’s just me and these French-Swiss kids, and two kids who spoke Swiss-German. I know a little French and no Swiss-German. It was so funny trying to explain to them what we were going to do for an hour in practice.”One long seasonThere have been times when Hanks hasn’t seen much of an offseason.”Our championship game in Switzerland was on a Sunday. Monday morning, I flew home, changed my bags, and flew to New Zealand,” Hanks said. “I played in New Zealand from April to June, then came back (home) and went to Australia in August and played that season (which ended in January). My agent then found a team in Sweden that wanted a player. I played for the last three regular season games and the playoffs.”And while Hanks isn’t playing professionally this summer, she’s still spending about five days per week playing pickup games and six days working out at a gym.
“I’m the only girl,” Hanks said. “It’s me and the guys. I play shooting guard with the guys, which is good for my game, especially in Europe.”Hanks’ shooting is getting an extra touch, as she’s playing with a guys’ basketball.”Trying to shoot it is a little different,” Hanks said. “But if I can hit (shots) with the guys’ ball, I know I can hit it with the girls’ ball.”As much as Hanks loves the lifestyle of playing across the globe, she may need a break. “I’m not sure how much longer I want to do this for,” said Hanks, who would like to go to business school in the future. “I love it, but there was a point when I got home this summer and I said, ‘My bags are going in the back corner of the closet I’m not looking at them for a while.'”For now, Hanks can enjoy summer at home. But by this time next year, she may have memories of winning another championship in a new country, or teaching basketball to kids who speak a different foreign language.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado