Oct. 21, 2011
With the Minnesota women's basketball season quickly approaching, GopherSports.com recently sat down with rookie guard Alex Ionescu (Bucharest, Romania) to learn more about her background and her goals for her freshman year as a Golden Gopher.
A 2011 graduate of Grigore Moisil High School, Ionescu has participated in five FIBA Youth European Championships since 2007 and helped Romania earn a gold medal in Division B at the 2010 U18 European Championships. She was part of Romania's starting five at that tournament, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals in a 75-49 qualifying round win versus Luxembourg.
Q: How did you start playing basketball?
A: "I was in the fourth grade and the basketball coach entered my classroom and asked who wanted to play basketball. My friend, who now plays at Marquette, and I always tried all the sports that we could and we figured that we should go and try basketball. There were two gyms next to each other and we were walking around in the pouring rain trying to find the gym. We initially went to the wrong gym and the guard there told us there was no basketball gym, so we went home. We went back the next day and there was another guard that told us the same thing. On our way back home, we met a classmate and she told us that she was going to basketball practice, so she took us there and that was how it all started. We were lucky that she helped us find the gym."
Q: When did you know that you wanted to play basketball in college?
A: "Growing up, Cristina Ciocan was my idol. She played for South Carolina and she was very good. She played in the Euroleague and the Romania Pro League, and she tried to play in the WNBA. But I wanted to follow in her footsteps, so since the fifth or sixth grade I knew that I wanted to play basketball in college."
Q: Why did you choose to play at Minnesota?
A: "Coach Borton came to Romania and when I met her I felt an instant bond. I really liked her, so I knew right away that I wanted to come to Minnesota."
Q: Who has been the biggest influence on your playing career?
A: "I guess all the people around me. The coaches from my club teams and from the national teams, my teammates and my family have had the biggest influence on me. My parents have always supported me in every single possible way and they've always kept me on the right path, even when things weren't going well."
Q: What has been the biggest adjustment you have had to make so far from high school to college?
A: "Everything is very different here than how things work in Romania. I learn something new every day, so it's very hard for me to choose one. In college, you're on your own and I'm enjoying it a lot. It makes me feel more responsible and more mature. You really have to take care of everything in order to get things done correctly. So I would say time management is a big adjustment for me. Also, money management has been an adjustment. I really need to be careful with that."
Q: How have the upperclassmen helped you adjust?
A: "Since the first time I met them, they made me feel like this was home. They've supported me through practices and corrected me when I was doing something wrong. They've told me the little details coaches expect from us and helped me better understand the coaches' mentality regarding the game. I spent a lot of time in the gym working with Leah on my defense. Thanks Leah, I really appreciate it."
Q: What was the hardest part about practice so far?
A: "Since everything is new, almost all the things seemed hard at the beginning. I'm getting back now, so I'm excited about everything we do. I don't see things as hard or easy, but as something that has to be done in order to improve. I would say that the final part of the morning practices was the hardest part for me."
Q: What has been your best experience at Minnesota?
A: "Definitely the fact that I went to my first WNBA game. I was amazed. And The Script concert was fun too."
Q: What are your personal goals for your first season at Minnesota?
A: "I have to take everything day by day and improve as much as I can every day. My main goal right now is to get my body stronger and to get my speed and my motion back. After I accomplish those goals, I will rethink and start working on bigger goals."
Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of basketball?
A: "I love reading, hanging out with my friends and shopping. I love long walks, especially on the beach listening to music, but I guess I will have to replace that with the bridge that connects the campus with the city."
Q: What is something about yourself that not a lot of people know?
A: "When I was 10 years old, I wore my street clothes to my very first basketball practice because I didn't have time to change. I was dressed perfectly for the Minnesota weather. I wore sweat pants, tights, two sweaters, one t-shirt and I had my hair divided in two ponytails."
Season tickets for the 2011-12 women's basketball season are on sale now and may be purchased by calling the Golden Gopher Ticket Office at 612.624.8080 or 1.800.U.GOPHER. For 2011-12 season ticket pricing information, visit the Women's Basketball Tickets site.
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