“You only have the opportunity to play for so long,” says Jacqui Kalin, the 24-year old guard from Sioux City, Iowa, “once you hang up your shoes you’re done for good.”
Kalin led the U.S. women’s basketball team with 19 points in a 90-45 thrashing of Australia in the semifinals at the Maccabiah in Malha last night. Team USA faces in the final Israel, which beat Canada 65-50 in the first semifinal on Thursday. After the final, Kalin will stay in Israel because she signed recently to play professionally with the Ramat Hasharon basketball club.
While she is grateful for the opportunity to continue her basketball career, she says she’s lucky to have the chance to “play in such an amazing place that means a lot to my faith.”
Kalin is set to join the Ramat Hasharon squad after a successful six-year career at the University of Northern Iowa. After being redshirted for the second time in 2011-2012, she finished the 2012-2013 season there leading the league with a 19.5 point average. She is one of only three basketball players in University of Northern Iowa history to eclipse the 2,000 point career mark.
This is her second trip to Israel − her first was on a family vacation six years ago, which she described as “absolutely amazing. There’s so much so see and absorb, so much history.”
Kalin got to tour around with her teammates before the games started − but will soon settle down to live in Ramat Hasharon, in a shared apartment with another player from her future team.
Having both grown up and played college ball in Iowa, Kalin says she’s “very excited over a new environment, and a new challenge.” Kalin says she is very close with her parents and three siblings and will miss them, but adds that they are extremely excited she has the opportunity to play in Israel, and they will most likely visit.
Playing in the Maccabiah has been an eye-opening experience for Kalin. “I’m so glad I took the opportunity to come. Growing up in Iowa, I didn’t have many Jewish friends, and you don’t meet lots of Jewish athletes,” she says.
Even though the U.S. women’s basketball team has been together for a very short time, they’ve become close and Kalin expects to have lifelong friends from the group.
Before the season starts, she plans to go to intensive Hebrew so she can break the language barrier.