Women playing basketball in the NCAA:
The freshmen from France

 NCAA Logo  © NCAA For the 2009-2010 season there are nine women playing basketball in the NCAA Division 1, of which eight of them are products of the French youth basketball programmes.

The ninth player on the list Soana Lucet is not as well known in France as the others due to the fact that she played her basketball in New Caledonia.

When it was officially announced that Allison Vernerey and Diandra Tchatchouang, both born in 1991, would be continuing their education in America and playing college hoops, all the main basketball magazines in France decided to publish articles on the two players.

However they are not the first players from France to play college hoops in the USA.

This season two other players from the French basketball system, Katrin Chiemeka and Tamzin Barroilhet are in NCAA Division 1 schools in America.

Each of the four players have their own history and yet all four of them have either played against each other, played on the same teams or even attended the same training camps.

One thing all four players have in common is that they attended a "Pôle Espoirs" and have played youth international basketball.

Freshmen women playing basketball in the NCAA

 Diandra Tchatchouang  © Greg Fiume/Maryland Media Relations

Diandra Tchatchouang joins the growing number of youth international women playing basketball in the NCAA
Diandra Tchatchouang considered playing in America in 2006 after Maryland Terrapins women's basketball team had come to France and played against the CFBB.

Maryland had won the championship that season. Aurélie Noirez, who was a product of the CFBB, was a member of the Maryland winning team.

Although Tchatchouang had made up her mind in 2006, she ran into some complications with the NCAA academic requirements which resulted in her having to go to summer school before taking up her place at the University of Maryland.

Tchatchouang was considered a big talent at a very young age and entered the CFBB when she was just 14. However before that she had won two national titles in minimes (U15).

In 2005 she won the championship with Paris Basket 18 that had not dropped a single match all season. Paris Basket beat the SIG on the way to the final. This was the only match that Tchatchouang played against Katrin Chiemeka.

Tchatchouang was also a member of the regional team that became champion of France in 2005, beating the Alsace that season in the final. Allison Vernerey was in the Alsace team that day.

She was called up to play for France U16 in 2005 when she was just 13 years old and was the second highest scorer for the team in the European Championship that season. She was voted MVP in the 2007 edition of the U16 championship.

Tamzin Barroilhet, Vernerey and Tchatchouang attended French training camps during the 2005-2006 season.

Tchatchouang spent four years at the CFBB and played for France in many competitions. Yet she missed the U19 World championship due to injury. She was also voted NF1 young player of the year in 2007-2008.

 Allison Vernerey  © Jon Gardiner, Duke Photography

Allison Vernerey was always going to be a French woman playing basketball abroad
Allison Vernerey always knew she was going to study in America.

Instead of taking up an offer to go to the CFBB at 15, she stayed closer to home and played basketball for her local club Mulhouse.

She helped them to promotion in 2007 from NF3 to NF2. But in 2008 they were relegated. So last season she played at Illkirch-Graffenstaden, a club 100 miles from her home.

Vernerey first played for France in 2006 and as joint captain with Tchatchouang became European champions in 2007 in the U16 age group.

She was the captain again this summer (2009) and won a silver medal at the U18 European championship. Vernerey was a member of the U19 French team at the FIBA world championship.

Vernerey also captained the Alsace 91 regional team, that included Katrin Chiemeka.

Vernerey’s planning for college life in the USA was perfect completing all the American exams early and signing for Duke University (Blue Devils) during the early signing period in November.

She followed the correct curriculum as specified by the NCAA and did not require summer school.

 Diandra Tchatchouang and Allison Vernerey    © SIG Amateur Vernerey and Tchatchouang had the honour of joining the French National team at an official training camp in January.

With EuroBasket 2009 and their final high school exams being at the same time, neither player would have been able to have played for France, if they had been selected.

The two regional papers in the Alsace have run stories on Vernerey all during the season and are likely to carry on all through her university career.

She won the award as young sports person of the year in the Alsace for 2008. She won also the NF1 young player of the year award for the 2008-2009.

 Tamzin Barroilhet  © Kent State Athletic Communications

Tamzin Barroilhet is waiting to join the women playing basketball in the NCAA
Tamzin Barroilhet is the oldest of the freshman and is a product of the Bourges Basket basketball academy.

Last season she captained the team in NF2. Barroilhet was born in London but has lived in France for more than 15 years which makes her "Anglo-Francaise".

The local newspaper in Bourges wrote an article on her at the end of the season (2008-2009) about her admission to Kent State University, playing NCAA basketball and representing Great Britain.

She was a member of the French U16 team in 2005 but was not selected for the European championship.

In 2007 she was allowed to join the English national team and has represented England at U18 level for two seasons. Last season she was a key member of the Great Britain U20 programme.

At Bourges Basket, Barroilhet played in several national championship final fours winning once a bronze medal.

Due to her late decision about coming to the USA and not to fall foul of NCAA eligibility rules, she was sitting on the bench with the first team of her club at the end of last season (2008-2009) which allowed her to pick up a championship and French cup medal.

In 2008 she played in the same England team as Katrin Chiemeka, whereas they had already played against each other in 2006 during a French national cadettes (U18) match.

Barroilhet made a late decision about playing basketball in America and only took her exams for American colleges after she completed her high school education.

She decided to join Kent State and is on the roster of the Golden Flashes but has not been cleared to play this season by the NCAA.

She has to wait until 2010 before she can play her first official game.

 Katrin Chiemeka  © Tim Cowie

Katrin Chiemeka is still on the list of women playing basketball abroad
The travelling of Katrin Chiemeka, born in the Netherlands, continues.

Of all the freshman in this article, you will not find any stories in the local papers about her joining the women playing basketball in the NCAA.

However in Spain her career is followed by one of the best known websites on women’s basketball.

During the spring signing period, Chiemeka agreed to join Davidson College in North Carolina.

Her university is just 149 miles away from her former Alsace captain Vernerey.

Chiemeka played for Illkirch-Graffenstaden in 2004-2005 when the club was becoming a power in youth basketball in France.

She then moved on and improved her skills with the ladies of the Wattignies Connection and Nord/Pas-de-Calais.

Katrin Chiemeka and Tamzin Barroilhet  © womensbasketball-in-france.com  She has been involved with the English national team since 2005 and has played in four European championships.

In 2008 she joined forces with Barroilhet in the U18 national team.

Chiemeka won the award of England player of the year twice in different age groups and has also captained the national team on several occasions.

She is expected to make her début in the NCAA in January 2010 for the Davidson Wildcats.

During her season playing in Reims, Chiemeka met Sophie Bertrand who is currently in her freshmen year for St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York state.

Bertrand is the fifth freshman this season from France and her college team, the Spartans, is playing in NCAA Division II.

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women playing basketball in the NCAA picture Credit:
Greg Fiume/Maryland Media Relations
Jon Gardiner, Duke Photography
SIG Amateur
Kent State Athletic Communications
Tim Cowie

Date: 18 November 2009

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