When it became official in April, that Dorka Juhász, the biggest hope of Hungarian women’s basketball, then only 21 years old, will continue his study and sports career as a UConn Huskies player in the colors of the University of Connecticut, only insiders came to fever here in Hungary.
They knew exactly that this was the same as, say, Dominic Szoboszlai being certified by Real Madrid.
Unfortunately, women’s basketball has been removed from the public radar screen in recent years, although never – not so long ago, for example, when Dorka’s mother, Balázs Hajnalka, the multiple national team bronze medalist with the bronze medal of MiZo Pécs, reaped his success in Europe, or a little later. it was a successful sport here in Hungary.
To get back there, its main custodian is the hero of our present interview, Dorka Juhász, who we called over the phone on the UConn campus in Storrs, near Hartford, Connecticut. In the Mecca of women’s basketball. There was only one day left Official Practice, until the start of the official training season – the season will start in just another month, with the Arkansas band being welcomed on November 14 at the XL Center in Hartford, home of the Huskies.
We are already past the pre-season, which lasted from August to October, and which was more of a period of individual training. Now, formal training sessions are underway to shake the team, practice the figures, Dorka reported during the so-called rehab before Thursday’s training, but before anyone is scared to talk about any post-injury rehabilitation, it quickly dispels our concerns. “It’s not rehab, and it’s not even that.” Amy Winehouse she sings in her hit of a similar title. So I do this rehab before every workout, which is actually prevention, injury prevention. It consists of stretching, special sequences of movements, in Hungarian I already train for training to get ready for the exercise. This minimized the likelihood of injury.
In Dorka’s life, the word injury evokes painful memories because in 2017, she suffered a knee ligament rupture in her right knee in one match of the age-old national team, and she had a full season of recovery. Fortunately, the operation was successful, dr. It was performed by surgeon András Tállay, the chief physician of the Olympic framework, and with the exception of a small scar, there were no complications. The ACL operation (in Hungarian front cruciate ligament), Dorka was only able to start her studies and play in 2018 at Ohio State University in Columbus in 2018.
I went to the Mihály Babits grammar school in Pécs, English class, so I didn’t really have a problem with the language when I went to Ohio State University three years ago – Dorka recalls that little culture shockot, which inevitably reaches all students from abroad to American universities. – The problem with learning was that in the first year I thought of everything in Hungarian and translated it into English, so then it took twice as long. But after a year, my brain changed and I was already starting to think in English.
The specialty Dorka studied in Columbus was psychology, she graduated in May, so she is already past her undergraduate degree, she has a Bachelor of Arts degree, now comes her master’s degree, but it’s already in Storrs.
Here at UConn, I am already studying mostly sports management, but I have not yet decided whether to write my dissertation or project – because there are two solutions here in America, not like at home – in psychology or sports management. Just like I’m not even sure I’m going to go through these two years right now, because if I master the material in a year, I can apply for the 2022 WNBA Draft. I’m already a senior, i.e. a quarterback, since I’ve been through Columbus for three years.
It is said that Dorka has a good chance of being included in the top ten of the draft, and then it could be for us Hungarians what the Slovenes Wound Doncic. Of course, on the world’s most patinated university team, the Huskies, the grandmaster of the sport, the legendary Geno Auriemma under your hands! In football, maybe just Sir Alex Fergusonhoz one could compare to the 67-year-old who led the Huskies to a national title on a record eleven times and was the head coach of the gold medal Team USA at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics.
I’m still just tasting that after three years in Ohio, I can continue my studies and basketball career at the University of Connecticut, it’s not easy to process this for a girl from Pécs, ”Dorka smiles. – We are very much preparing for the season, because although the Huskies have always been in the Final Four in the university championship without interruption for eleven years, we last managed to win the trophy only in 2016, so now is the time for another victory. Our team is strong, with Paige Bueckers, among others, who has won all the awards for being a freshman last year, and was chosen as the best student basketball player in the country at the age of 19.
Dorka is confident that she will have a place in the starting five, of course the competition is very strong, as her words show.
We are eight for the two high positions, he says. – I myself play in the power forward position with 193-194 centimeters, there is no real position center in our system, nowadays this is the trend in the basketball sport of the world. I really like this game system, also because I like to quit three-point throws, I think the triples go pretty well. Now that I’m doing my master’s degree, I have more time for basketball because I only have three days a week when I have to go to college, the rest I can only do basketball. Anyway, the morning was for learning, the afternoon was for sports in Ohio State. Here in Storrs, the sports hall is just ours, we don’t have to share it with representatives of other sports. Geno is a special person, always open his office to the players, everything can be discussed with him. Since 1985, as UConn’s head coach, fantastic players like the five-time Olympic champion have come out of his hands. Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, or Russian Svetlana Abrosymova. I can only say, incidentally, that Diana and Sue also played in the team of my first master, László Rátgéber in Moscow, and then Diana even in Istanbul. Their jersey hangs there on the ceiling of our hall, every time I look up high, my back peas that I can play basketball in the same airspace where my role models were playing at the time.
Although she’s at the far end of the world in Connecticut, Dorka doesn’t forget where she came from either.
Wherever life drifts, I will never forget what Pécs gave me – his voice softens. – I was born there, I graduated there, I started playing basketball there, my mother became a multiple Hungarian champion there, and László Rátgéber carved an NB I player out of me there. Already at the age of sixteen I introduced myself to the Hungarian forefront, I mastered the basics in the PEAC-Pécs team, I could be a national team there. And in the summer they are always welcomed with open arms, in May and again this year I was able to train at the National Basketball Academy, so the relationship with the city of Pécs, the National Basketball Academy and PEAC will always remain alive. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be playing in PEAC again, although at the moment the focus is on the 2022 WNBA Draft, and it’s no secret that in addition to the women’s NBA, I’d love to play in some of Europe’s top teams over time. And in the Hungarian national team, which unfortunately I could only take part in the trainings this year, not in a stakes match, because I did not manage to get to the European Championship. But what is delayed does not depend…
(Cover image: Dorka Juhász at the women’s college basketball match against Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center January 5, 2019. Photo: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)