Stepping off a plane in a completely foreign country, Emma Duff, a highly accoladed Western Washington University alumna, is taking a leap of faith as she begins her pro basketball career in Germany.
Duff plays for the KIA Metropol Baskets in Schwabach, Germany. She signed with the Baskets soon after graduating in June 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and is the all-time leader in games played for Viking women’s basketball.
The Washington native grew up in Tumwater before going to college at Western. Her decision to play in Germany was fueled by a need to experience something other than her home state and country.
“I wanted to get away and go somewhere new and Germany seemed like a great place to go,” Duff said. “I wanted a new experience and to be a part of their culture.”
With Duff not knowing any German and having little experience with the woes of culture shock, the initial transition from college ball to her pro career has had its highs and lows.
Her agent, Maria Blazejewski of Scorer’s First, understands the struggles of transitioning into international basketball after college. Blazejewski has also been playing internationally for eight years all around the world, most recently in Australia.
“[Duff] has the personality to thrive and do well, along with her playing ability,” Blazejewski said. “Though there is that transition where you have to put yourself out there and it's not easy to do that.”
Unlike American basketball, there are no high school or college teams in Europe. The only way a baller can play on an official team is through a club like the Baskets.
The Baskets are comprised of players spanning from the ages of 15 to 32. This age gap is an aspect of basketball Duff had never run into before her time in Germany.
This season, Duff is the Baskets’ sole international and non-local player. As the only full-time and paid player on her team, her role on the court has completely altered from her years at Western.
“She's expected to come in and do as much as possible, fill multiple roles and be a go-to scorer,” Blazejewski said. “There is quite a bit of pressure on you. It is your job to produce and perform well.”
Import players from the U.S. are expected to come in and make the team better. They are meant to be the first scoring option and a leader on the court.
“She’s brought here to score, to bring us leadership and to improve our team,” said Duff’s teammate and daughter of Baskets head coach, Anna Furman.
In Duff’s first two months in Germany, she’s had to adjust to her new role. At Western, she was seen as a vocal leader and a veteran with the tools to score, rebound, assist and defend.
Being within the same program for so long, Duff’s game is aligned with Viking basketball. Though this type of play is not what is expected of her on the Baskets.
“When you've played under [the same coach] for so long, the way they taught you different things is the way you play basketball,” Duff said.
Carmen Dolfo, Duff’s head coach at Western for five years, has kept in contact. Dolfo commends Duff for her courage with the big move and her positive outlook on the process.
“It's a great opportunity to see the world while continuing to play basketball,” Dolfo said. “I think she's embracing it and it will be a wonderful experience for her.”
Looking forward, the Baskets are 1-4 in their conference and look to improve their record before the playoffs begin in March 2023.
As the season continues and Duff acclimates to her new role, she hopes her initial fears and challenges will dull.
“There's been a learning curve, adjusting to the different things here,” Duff said. “But I think as time goes on, that'll eventually fade.”
Not only has Duff’s role in basketball changed, but many aspects of her everyday life have as well. The language barrier, initial culture shock, homesickness and loneliness are all parts of the transition into her new life in Germany.
“It was hard doing day-to-day things, like going to the stores and interacting,” Duff said. “I would get nervous telling them I only speak English.”
Though Duff views the challenges she is going through as stepping stones in her personal development, she came to Germany expecting them, and she’s facing it head-on.
“It's making me grow as a person,” Duff said. “I've never been good at doing things on my own, but I am getting better.”
Jack Glenn (he/him) is a sports and recreation reporter in his second quarter at The Front. He is pursuing a news/editorial degree in journalism. In his free time, Jack enjoys reading, playing basketball and spending time with friends and family. If you have any questions or would simply like to contact him, his email is email@example.com.