In August 2006 Maria Nilsson from Sweden arrived at UAA and had two remarkable years with the Seawolf women’s basketball team, helping the program become a national contender. In 2008 Tamar Gruwell became a Seawolf and led the UAA team for two years with a determined work ethic and attitude. As for me, Hanna Johansson, I also arrived in 2008 and had four amazing years in a Seawolf jersey, culminating in the opportunity to play in the program’s third Elite Eight appearance and to represent the team as an All-American. Now the three of us have become another kind of sea creature in another continent, reunited as the Dolphins in Norrköping, Sweden.
After being more than well cared for in Anchorage, Alaska, I must admit that it was hard leaving this great place in mid-June of 2012. I had decided, though, that if I wanted to continue playing basketball at a high level, I needed to go overseas. My agent helped me look at different opportunities throughout Europe, and after weighing all the factors, I decided to play for a team on the rise in Sweden, the Dolphins.
At this point, it is hard to imagine a better scenario. The Swedish women’s national team coach, Lars Johansson, leads the Dolphins in his first full season, and the many talented players on the team, including Maria Nilsson, enable us to have highly competitive practices, helping our performances during games. Nilsson, who has played with the Dolphins for the last three years while finishing her degree in physical education, enjoys the city of Norrköping and her teammates, but she also keeps her experiences in Anchorage close to heart.
“I really enjoyed UAA, and I learned how to push myself way further than what I thought was possible. Going to the regionals and Final Four are memories that I will always keep,” says Nilsson with a big smile, adding that it is nice to have two other former Seawolf players on the team.
Head coach Lars Johansson agrees. “Having seen these girls’ work ethic at the first practice session, I just knew that we had a grand slam in our new recruits. It is interesting and obvious that the Seawolves will have a major impact on the Dolphins’ title race this year,” Coach Johansson says.
For me, it is interesting to be back to Sweden. My American experiences have definitely shaped the way I view things. I see the world and my country a little bit differently now, especially having an American roommate pointing out some of the differences on a daily basis. “Your money reminds me of the game Monopoly… It seems like you all can’t go a day without eating potatoes… Why don’t more people say ‘hello’?…” are things that I might have heard Tamar Gruwell say.
After being in the United States, I know that coming to a new country is challenging. The language barrier can be difficult for foreigners, but my teammates and I do the best we can with interpreting and translating for Tamar. Fortunately for her, most people here do speak English as a second language. “So far I like it here,” she says, “I have a great coach and wonderful teammates who have helped with the transition. As for the city, I enjoy the architecture and how easy it is to get around. There are biking trails everywhere, and it seems like people are always out and active.”
I feel truly grateful to be able to play with players who know Alaska and the style we played there. That background together with great Swedish talents and the national team coach has helped us to a 7-0 start in the league thus far.
In August 2012 I graduated with a Journalism and Public Communication degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and that will be a journey that I never will forget. I met wonderful people in Alaska, did things that I never could have accomplished by myself and, most importantly, learned a tremendous amount and developed as a person. Thanks again, UAA, and I hope the Seawolves have another successful season!
If you want to follow us and the Dolphins go to www.dolphins.se. Or follow these links to our player pages: Maria Nilsson, Tamar Gruwell, Hanna Johansson.
Former Seawolf stats:
Born: 1984 in Sweden
Career accomplishments at UAA: Helped Seawolves to 53-11 record and back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 2 seasons … started 7 NCAA Tournament games as UAA posted 5-2 mark, including national semifinals run as a senior … set school record for three-pointers made by a 2-year transfer and was No. 4 on overall list with 132 … finished No. 6 in 3FG percentage and No. 5 in 3FGs attempted … first player in program history to connect on 7 or more 3FGs on two occasions … earned two Player of the Game honors in UAA’s consecutive Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout title runs … other team accomplishments included a 32-1 home record and a 5-0 mark against Div. I teams (including exhibitions).
Born: 1987 in California
Career accomplishments at UAA: Earned Team MVP and 2nd Team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference honors for Seawolf club that finished 24-5 and advanced to NCAA Tournament 2nd Round…posted other GNAC ranks of 2nd in 3FGs per game (2.6, 33rd nationally) and minutes per game (32.9), 3rd in steals per game (2.0), 17th in scoring and 18th in FG percentage (.420) … on UAA single-season lists, ranked No. 2 all-time in 3FGs per game and No. 3 in 3FGs made as a senior, committed only 25 turnovers in team-high 921 minutes (one per 36.8 minutes), easily surpassing school record … played full 40 minutes on five occasions … earned spot on Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout All-Tournament Team after helping earned spot on GNAC All-Academic Team with 3.91 overall GPA … took home Coaches’ Award at season-ending team banquet April 9 … 2009-10 UAA Athlete of the Year nominee.
Born: 1989 in Sweden
Career accomplishments at UAA: Finished as UAA program record-holder for individual victories (112) and games played (133), along with top-10 ranks in 12 more categories, including points (7th, 1,393), rebounds (2nd, 808), steals (5th, 195), blocks (5th, 70), assists (9th, 247), field-goal pct. (4th, .533), free throws made (6th, 333), games started (5th, 99) and double-doubles (t-7th, 17) … became second player in program history to earn either All-American or Academic All-American honors (see 2011-12 recap) … was only player in UAA history to amass at least 1,200 points, 800 rebounds, 200 assists and 150 steals … Seawolves were ranked among nation’s top 20 in WBCA weekly D-II top-25 poll for entire career … three-time GNAC All-Academic Team honoree.