Bryan Lion bounces ball from Russia to Tennessee to Iowa

March 23, 2015

March 23, 2015 – SIOUX CITY | It doesn’t show much on the stat sheet — the one rebound Dasha Sharova snares for her Bryan College Lions on Thursday as the clock ticks away in a 76-35 loss to Concordia University, an NAIA heavyweight.

Dasha SharovaBut being in the game — and in the game’s official record — means the world to this tournament’s Russian representative.

“I love coming here,” Sharova says.

Sharova, a native of Norlisk, Russia, would love to stay in Sioux City longer. She pledges to return next year, and hopes for a longer visit.

Her stay in the U.S., she predicts, could last a lifetime if things fall just so.

“I don’t want to go back to Russia,” she says. “There isn’t as much chance for me to succeed in my field there.”

Sharova, a health and exercise science major, seeks to become a strength and conditioning coach. She’d prefer to work with a U.S. collegiate basketball team, or an organization elsewhere here or in another country, wherever that path may take her.

The path that leads to the Tyson Events Center for the NAIA Division II Women’s National Basketball Championship is a long and interesting one.

Sharova leaves Russia to attend Northwest Community College in Powell, Wyo. She joins her twin sister, Katia Sharova.

Why Northwest? Why Powell, Wyo.?

“It is a school that takes people with zero (English) language,” she says.

The sum total of her English upon arriving in Wyoming was this: “Hello, my name is Dasha.”

“We were pretty good in Russia,” says Sharova, who once scored 36 points in a game. “My sister was the point guard, I was a guard.”

Katia Sharova transfers after one year and ends up enrolled at Montreat College in Asheville, N.C. She begins playing for the Cavaliers. Dasha finds her way to tiny Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., enrollment 750. Like Montreat, the Bryan Lions compete in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.

The identical twins play against one another in college. Twin sisters from Russia opposing one another.

I ask if she’s ever played against her sister before.

She smiles and in perfect English delivers a slam dunk for a response. “I played against my sister at home all the time growing up!”

The twins find themselves cheering for one another as collegiate foes. Dasha laughs, recalling how a teammate gently gave her an elbow to the ribs as they sat on the bench in a game versus Montreat. “I cheered for my sister when she scored against us,” she says.

Katia did the same when Dasha scored.

The memories remain vivid, a shared experience in the Applachians. Such bonds may work to keep both on U.S. soil once their playing days end. Dasha, for her part, seeks to enter graduate school after graduating from Bryan next spring.

In addition to limited work opportunities back home, she doesn’t have family left in her home country. Her father, Sergei, died 10 years ago; her mother, Inessa, died two years ago. Both were in their 40s, far too young.

“It’s just me and my sister now,” Dasha says moments after her national tournament experience ends in defeat. “I get to see her when we play and a few other times.

“I’ve made many friends here.”

She then talks about improvements she must make to help her Lions roar a little louder in Sioux City one year from now.

“I need to read the game better,” she says.

And then she hops on the team bus and readies for a 15-hour ride back to the mountains and Dayton, Tenn. She’ll spend time reading on the bus, preparing for an English paper and homework that’s due for her minor.

Her minor? “It’s Spanish,” she says. “I have a bunch of it to get done now.”

Original article published by the Sioux City Journal March 13, 2015; text by Tim Gallagher; photo by Jim Lee. Text and photo used with the kind permission of the Sioux City Journal.