Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the June 22 print edition of The Times-Sentinel. Subscribe to see more of these stories and see them sooner; call 316-540-0500.
By Sam Jack
CHENEY – Since concluding her Emporia State basketball career in spring 2015, Cheney High School graduate Merissa Quick has enjoyed a globetrotting professional career.
Her game has taken her to leagues in Portugal, Australia and, most recently, Turkey.
She started considering a professional post-college career after her junior season at ESU.
“My college coach approached me and said, ‘If you continue to play like you are, there’s a chance that you would be able to continue playing after you’re finished here.’ I decided I’d probably never get an opportunity like that again, so I might as well pursue it,” Quick said.
By the end of her senior season, Quick had established herself as one of the best in the history of the Hornets program. She averaged 3.6 blocks per game over the course of her career, and she became the only player in the history of the women’s team to rack up 1,500 points, 850 rebounds and 300 blocked shots in a career.
Quick found an agent who helped connect her with Boa Viagem, a team based on Terceira Island in the Azores.
Terceira’s 153 square miles are home to 56,000 people, 35,000 of whom live in the historic city of Angra.
Her season with Boa Viagem started in September 2015. There were two other American pros on the squad with her, plus one highly skilled Portuguese player.
“It was a little bit lower level than I’d been used to, just because I was used to having five starters and five subs that could all play at the same level,” Quick said. “That wasn’t the case over there; we had four who were really good, and then it dramatically dropped off.”
Quick lived with the other Americans. When they weren’t playing, they spent time hiking, exploring the island’s dormant volcano and enjoying the beach.
Terceira is located nearly 1,000 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, and bad weather meant that some games had to be rescheduled, stretching out the season. Quick had hoped to spend some time in the States before joining her next team, the Bundaberg Bears of Australia, but the delay in Portugal meant she didn’t get a break.
“I actually flew from Portugal, through the U.S., straight into Australia, in April 2016,” Quick said. “That was quite the trip.”
In Bundaberg, 230 miles north of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast, Quick enjoyed being able to communicate freely in her native language, though she felt a bit culturally isolated as the only American on the team.
Her team played all over the vast state of Queensland, which is two-and-a-half times the size of Texas.
“The league was really competitive,” Quick said. “We just missed out on the playoffs on this team, but we had a really good team. We did have to deal with some injuries.”
Bundaberg is near the south end of the Great Barrier Reef.
“I was able to get out and do some snorkeling in the reef, and there was a little island that we explored,” Quick said. “It was a really cool experience.”
When the Bundaberg season ended, Quick joined a Turkish team, Kastamonu Basketbol Spor Kulubu, for its season starting in September 2016. Kastamonu is located in the north central part of Turkey, in a mountainous region.
Living and competing in Turkey, Quick experienced more culture shock than she had during her previous stints in Terceira and Bundaberg.
“In Portugal, anybody who worked at a restaurant or store, they would know at least passable conversational English. In Turkey, that wasn’t really a need for them, so very few people spoke any English,” she said.
Fortunately, one teammate who spoke excellent English could serve as Quick’s primary translator, and four other players spoke some English.
Kastamonu’s league was national, but the linguistic gap meant that Quick did not feel comfortable with much independent sightseeing.
“Especially with everything going on over there, I felt better if I stuck close to my teammates,” Quick said. Elements of the Turkish military attempted a coup in July 2016, and the country was still on edge when she arrived in September.
Still, Quick did get to make repeat visits to Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey’s two most famous cities – and on the court, her team did pretty well, finishing 10th out of 20 teams in the league.
She got back to Kansas in April, after a solid 20 months spent playing overseas.
“I enjoyed it; it was definitely a great experience,” she said. “It has made me appreciate things that we kind of take for granted here in the US, and also just appreciate the struggle that foreigners in the US have – because it is hard to live in another country.”
Despite the difficulties, Quick is not done with her globetrotting pro career. She doesn’t have anything to announce yet, but she is in talks with a handful of different leagues, including some in countries where she has not yet played.
“I feel like my body will tell me when it’s time to stop, because it is a physically demanding profession,” she said. “I feel good now.”