WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Dream come true for Odessa College's Gavryliuk
Feb 11, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Nataliia Gavryliuk left her home in the Ukraine to come to the United States for one reason, and that was to play basketball.
And it didn't take long for the 22-year old freshman sharpshooter to find a new home on the court, playing for the Odessa College women's basketball team.
Tonight when the Lady Wranglers (18-5 overall, 8-2 Western Junior College Athletic Conference) host a rematch with rival Midland College (20-5, 8-1) at the OC Sports Center, Gavryliuk will enter the contest leading the WJCAC in 3-point shooting percentage and as the seventh-leading scorer in the league at 12.6 points per game.
"It was always my dream to play in the USA," said Gavryliuk, who's shooting 40 percent from behind the arc this season. "I was watching American basketball (on television) and it was physical and dynamic this game. It's a very smart game, you must think in the second what you want to do, dribble and penetrate, pass, or shoot (the ball). You must think quick and I think that's why I chose basketball. I like it."
Shooting is one of the things Gavryliuk does best, especially from behind the three-point line, where she has knocked down a team-high 43 treys through 23 games in her first season of American basketball.
Her European style is evident once she squares to the basket, with a shooting form that looks quite different from anyone else on the floor.
"I think that's just Nataliia," said OC head coach Ara Baten of the form. "She's good with it, so we never tried to tell her anything. She's been playing that way a long time and it works real well for her and it works for us.
"But she's a very well-rounded, very versatile player. She's not just one dimensional. She's not just a 3-point shooter. She's as good off the dribble as most kids and she's really good at finishing in traffic. She's also a good offensive rebounder and just does a lot of things beside shoot 3-pointers. That's just one part of her game. She's not a specialist."
Lady Wranglers' point guard Alissa Campanero has grown fond of having the 5-foot-11 Gavryliuk on the court, especially in transition.
"I really don't know what it is, but when I'm running the floor on the fast break, I always seem to be able to find her," Campanero said. "She's a great target and she always wants the ball. I think her aggressiveness really meshes well with my style of play and I really enjoy playing with her."
While her coaches and teammates can appreciate all aspects of her game, Gavryliuk gets her thrill shooting from long range.
"I like the three points. It's my favorite part of basketball," she said. "When I played in the Ukraine, I could penetrate every time to get to the basket, but in America, they play more physically. That's why I like shooting 3-pointer, it's safer out there."
Gavryliuk hopes to play at the Division I level when her time at Odessa College is over, and then return to Europe to play professionally.
Odessa College, which is coming off a 95-71 victory over Clarendon College on Saturday, in which Gavryliuk posted nine points, lost 75-60 the last time it took on Midland College on Jan. 14.
--Follow Mike Whitson on Twitter at @OAWhitson
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