International recruiting plays integral part in Cowgirls success

OSU vs. Idaho State

Sara Rodrigues defends during the Oklahoma State vs. Idaho State women's basketball game on Nov. 19, 2019 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater. 

Touting six different nationalities from three different continents, the Cowgirls have forged their successes on international recruiting.

While women’s basketball players make up just 4.4% of international athletes, the Cowgirls' roster is made up of 33% international players.

Coaches can have issues when recruiting international players, such as the challenges international athletes face when they travel thousands of miles away from home.

Sara Rodrigues, a freshman guard from Sao Paulo, Brazil, struggled facing the way American’s speak English as well as their eating habits.

“For me it was the English and the food because it was so different,” Rodrigues said. “While my English was good, it got better when I got here but, it was really bad, and I was scared to make mistakes so I was just quiet and looking around, and for food, Americans don’t have good habits eating healthy food so it was kind of hard to adapt.”

Bigue Sarr, a forward from Dakar, Senegal, faced similar struggles to Rodrigues, saying that the language was the hardest thing to adapt to. 

“The language, it was very hard, because for example for me, at school we were learning the British English, the more formal English, when I came here, when I was talking to people, they were like 'Why are you so formal?'" Sarr said. "That’s how I learned it, and when they talked to me, I could not understand it.” 

Coach Jim Littell said that his goal is to help all of his players adjust to life in college.

“We hope that we help all of these young ladies adjust because whether they’re a domestic student or an international student, there’s an adjustment going from the high school level or the JC level to a BCS school,” Littell said. “It’s kind of funny. There are some language issues that I catch myself with, slang sometimes. They’re taught proper English you know? And I’m country. Their proper English and my country don’t always collide. Sometimes they’re hesitant to ask, 'Hey coach what did you mean there?' So I think it takes a little while with the language barrier.”

Littell also expanded on the struggles that come with international recruiting.

“There’s a lot of red tape you have to go through. It varies from different countries sometimes. Our people in the international office do a lot of work here at Oklahoma State and it’s not an easy process,” Littell said. “We’ve got kids where we’ve gone to Brazil to recruit, and then we’ve got kids that we recruited from junior colleges that were international students that we saw there. It’s a different recruiting process with each young lady, and it’s one that takes a lot of red tape to get all the paperwork done.”

Each international player has their own story to tell about their recruiting process as well. For Rodrigues, it was about having the right connections along with her talent that she has brought to the team. 

“For me it was all connections, coaches knowing each other and stuff," Rodrigues said. "My coach in Brazil knew a coach that played here in high school, and they knew each other. Both of them knew coach Littell, so that’s how the connection happened.”

For Sarr, her recruiting process was different, seeing as she came from a junior college.

“At first I was at the junior college in Americus, Georgia, South Georgia Tech, and I was selected to go play in the freshman all-star game, so that’s the way coach Littell saw me," Sarr said. "It was in July, then he gave me an offer. I came for a visit in September and committed in November. Now I’m here.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com