SBU’s India Pagan signs with German professional basketball team

By Daniel Dunaieff

With sneakers on her feet and a ball in her hand, India Pagan will tour the world in a landmark year.

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Photo by Stoney Brook University

First, she earned a Masters in Coaching at Stony Brook University, completing a five-year stint during which she also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. After a brief trip back to New London, Connecticut to visit family and celebrate, she and her family took a long-awaited cruise to Honduras and Mexico.

Now the 6ft 1in forward, who ended a stellar basketball career at Stony Brook, is training with the Puerto Rican national team, with whom she also traveled to the Olympics last year in Tokyo. Pagan and the team will travel to Serbia for a scrimmage and then to Australia to play in the World Cup.

But this is not the end of his journey. After the World Cup, the 23-year-old Pagan will fulfill a professional goal, as she signed a one-year contract to play professional basketball in Germany with the BC Pharmaserv Dolphins of Marburg, Germany. North of Frankfurt and east of Düsseldorf, Marburg is home to the Marburger Schloss (Marburg Castle) and many medieval churches.

“It’s always been my dream to play abroad, so it’s a dream come true,” said Pagan, who is listed as a starter for the German Division 1 side. love it, it’s really cool.”

The reality of becoming a professional basketball player began to set in after she told her family members that she had signed a contract. When she shared the news with her mother Carmen Pagan, her mother “freaked out,” Pagan recalled. His sisters Melody and Taina and family friends were also excited and “freaked out” about Pagan becoming a professional basketball player.

Achieving such a dream requires family “teamwork”, said Carmen Pagan. “Any family member in this group, everyone has to commit to being there and supporting the child in different ways,” including emotionally, financially and academically.

When Pagan started playing basketball at the age of 11, the family took on a “huge commitment” which included missing “a lot of birthdays and a lot of family functions. We were always on the road, traveling through the United States,” said India’s father, Moises Pagan, who credits his daughter’s willingness to seize any opportunity to play as a catalyst for her basketball career.

On a Friday night years ago, India received a call about a high school showcase in Queens. Despite heavy rush-hour traffic and a five-hour commitment, she “didn’t even shake,” he recalls. She said, “Dad, I want to go.” This is where former Stony Brook head coach Caroline McCombs, who led the team from 2014 to 2021, saw her play.

Pagan is one of the few former Seawolf women to become a professional basketball player, joining Kaela Hilaire and Shania “Shorty” Johnson, who also played in Europe.

Professional connection

After a strong showcase following her season, Pagan received numerous offers from agents to represent her. Picking an agent was “like picking a school again,” she said. “I just had to see who was the right candidate.”

Pagan selected Stephanie Stanley, president and founder of Merit Management Group, who also represents one of Pagan’s favorite WNBA players, Washington Mystics Guard Natasha Cloud. That, however, was just one of the many reasons she chose Stanley. The down-to-earth pagan thought Stanley was “like an old aunt. She made me laugh. »

Stanley, who clients sometimes refer to as “Momma Steph”, said she liked Pagan because she “likes players who hustle, play hard and look like they’re having fun on the pitch.”

Stanley also offered advice on the kinds of things to be prepared for when playing overseas. A crew told one of Stanley’s customers that they would provide transportation. When the player arrived, the team gave her a bicycle. “Lesson learned,” laughed Stanley. The player, however, realized that everyone used bikes to get around the country and enjoyed the chance to shed a few pounds by pedaling back and forth for practice.

Another client had a choice of prepared meals or financial allowance for food. The player sent Stanley photos of food that neither of them could identify. Stanley said those rookie contracts covered the cost of living and basketball. Rookies “are going to learn how to budget,” she said.

Overall, Stanley said the overseas market, especially with Americans no longer comfortable playing in Russia amid Brittney Griner’s imprisonment and nine-year sentence, is experiencing a ” difficult year. Players who could have played for a top Russian team head to Turkey, Italy, Spain or France. The dislocation affects leagues around the world at all levels. “Any player who’s signed now is impressive,” Stanley said. “It’s been a tough year.”

Stanley added that rookies usually sign for a year in any league as players seek to move to more competitive leagues where they could also earn more money.

Pagan, who will share a flat with three other players when she arrives in Germany around a day before the team’s first match, is delighted with the opportunity and feels like the team and coach Patrick Unger, who has lived in the United States for a year, support her. Unger contacted her on FaceTime.

At the same time, the team, consisting of several German players, includes players who speak English. The team pays for utilities, housing and transportation and provides cash for groceries.

Although Pagan is excited to step onto the court and start playing with her new teammates, she knows she has to contribute. “I have to prove myself,” she said.

SBU dues

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Photo of the Pagan family

If Pagan finds the same kind of success in professional basketball that she had in college, she could start a promising career. She ranks eighth on Stony Brook University’s all-time scoring list, second in career field goal percentage, and eighth in total rebounds.

Ashley Langford, head coach of a Seawolves team that won the America East conference championship last year in its first season, was thrilled for Pagan. “It’s awesome,” Langford said. “It’s what she’s been looking for all her career.”

Langford appreciated Pagan’s contributions on and off the court and the work his former basketball player did to improve his game. On the court, Pagan was “always very good at it,” Langford said. Over the past year, she’s asserted herself more physically, getting closer to the basket and drawing contact from defenders, Langford said. She enjoyed watching Pagan show emotion on the court, flex after making contact and head to the free throw line to take a shot at a conventional three-pointer.

Off the field, Langford admired the leadership role Pagan played in welcoming new teammates, showing them around campus, offering advice on college athletics, and helping them feel like a part of the Seawolves family and the basketball program. “It’s not me or anyone else saying to him, ‘You need to hook up with a freshman. She does it all alone. That’s who she is. She wants everyone to succeed,” Langford said.

Pagan encouraged her new teammates to snack because players don’t always have time for a structured meal and encouraged them to “use educational counselors wisely,” she said. “They are there for a reason.”

As Pagan is excited about the next stage of her life, she is grateful for the time and opportunities she had at Stony Brook. “Eventually this chapter had to end,” she said. The Stony Brook team will “always be a family”.

Growing fame

Pagan, who joined the Puerto Rican women’s team at the delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo last year, has begun to develop an international following of fans. Recently she was at a WalMart in Puerto Rico and someone approached her and asked to take a picture with her. While Pagan was born and raised in Connecticut, she plays for Puerto Rico as both of her parents are from Puerto Rico.

She was also recently eating at a Chili’s restaurant with her teammates when an interview she did appeared on TV screens around the restaurant. “The server was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s you,'” Pagan said. His teammates enjoyed the excitement.

Pagan also received and responded to messages in German on social media. Once her professional season begins in Germany, Pagan will be away from home, where her parents will not be able to take the ferry from Bridgeport or Orient Point to visit her as they did in Stony Brook, a place where all the family still feels at home.

Indeed, one of the most emotionally difficult moments of her basketball journey around the world occurred when she played in Chile for three weeks. At 17, Pagan struggled to be so far from his family, recalls Moises Pagan. This experience prepared her for her current plan to travel to Germany. “It makes the transition [to Germany] so much easier,” he said. FaceTime and a commitment to basketball allowed Pagan to focus on his sport. “She just wants to make everyone proud, playing the game she loves,” he added.