Maria Delgado went from England to Montana to Minnesota.
(3,993 miles from Crookston)
How long have you been going to school in the United States?
I moved to the states four years ago, but this is my second year in Crookston. I went to community college in Montana, and when I graduated from there, I transferred here.
How did you decide to move to the U.S.?
Basketball has been a huge part of my life for quite a long time. I attended a basketball academy at home called Barking Abbey Basketball Academy. They do a really good job of sending athletes out to either Europe or America. When I graduated from there, they helped me find a school.
What was the process like of searching for an American school?
It was really overwhelming to begin with, to be honest. It’s been something that I had wanted to do for a long time, and when the time came, it was surreal to be in that position. To actually get out here and see that I set out to do what I wanted to do.
What other schools were you looking at?
I had a few offers, and I decided on Miles Community College [in Montana] because it was a good fit for me, and I really enjoyed the coaches there.
Were you able to visit Miles Community College before moving there?
No. I just came in, and it was completely different to what I’m used to at home. I had never been to the U.S.
What was your initial exposure to the United States like?
My flight out here, I got in at like 12 at night. So I didn’t see anything when we were driving back. When I woke up in the morning, I don’t know if I was expecting to see a lot of buildings, but I looked out the window and there was absolutely nothing. London is really busy, so it was different.
What was the draw to the United States for you?
I think because the sport is so big here, and it’s so well-respected. It’s just a different kind of competitiveness. People are more committed, and it’s a big deal for them.
What was the furthest you had been away from home by yourself before coming here?
Maybe like a week when I went to a regional tournament. But my parents came the last two days. So maybe like five days was the max I’d spent away.
Did you feel you were emotionally prepared to live in another country?
At the time when I committed, I was really anxious to get out of London and to be somewhere else and experience new things. I think I underestimated how hard it is to be by yourself in a completely new setting. There’s not a lot of people you can relate to in terms of being a student-athlete, being international and living completely by yourself while you’re 18.
How long did it take you to consider the U.S. as home?
I would say the summer after my sophomore year. My freshman year was really hard for me. I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I thought I was going to go back home. I would call home and say this isn’t for me and I can’t do it. But when I look back on it, it was a culture shock. It wasn’t just culture. It was basketball and academics and everything. Everything was completely different.
Did you have a defining moment when you realized it would work out?
It was a game against Casper Community College. Before this game, I probably didn’t get in five minutes per game. I was really frustrated, because it wasn’t what I was used to, and it wasn’t what I thought was going to happen. I finally had a good game, and after the game, my coach praised me and said, “This is what we’ve been looking for. This is why we recruited you.” That’s when my coaches made me feel like I could do this.
How did you make the move from Montana to Crookston?
When I graduated, my coaches helped me look for schools that they felt would fit me. We came across UMC. Me and Coach Roysland got in contact, and I came out for a visit. When I came here, there were a few people I felt I would really get along with.
How much did you know about Minnesota when you were living in England?
Zero. I didn’t even know it was a state.
How long have you been playing basketball?
Since I was maybe eight or nine. I started taking it seriously when I was about 12 or 11. I used to play a lot of different sports before that, but my brothers used to spend a lot of time together every weekend. I used to feel left out, and that’s when I started going to their practices and their games, and I just fell in love with it.
How often do you get to visit home?
I try and go for a little bit every summer. I, recently, was home last June. I don’t really go for long. Maybe three weeks. I haven’t spent Christmas at home in four years. My family hasn’t been here yet, but we’re hoping to get them out here for graduation.
How do you handle only seeing your family once a year?
At the beginning, it was difficult. Me and my younger brother were really close. I think it gets difficult, because holidays are hard for me and birthdays are hard for me, but you get used to it. It’s the sacrifice you have to make.
Are there any teammates who take you in for those holidays?
Isieoma Odor and her family are basically my family out here. They took me in and have been looking after me.
How do you feel high school basketball in England differed from high school basketball here?
From what I can see from a few high school games, I would say it’s a lot more serious at the high school level. Back and home in high school, there weren’t a lot of teams that we could play against, and our competition was not really good. We won the championship three years in a row, but we didn’t have anyone to compete with. That was four years ago, but now, there are a lot more academies like Barking Abbey.
What other sports did you play in high school?
I played a sport called netball. It’s basically a combination of handball, soccer and volleyball. I also used to play tennis. Tennis was my first sport before I stuck with basketball.
When did it cross your mind to play basketball collegiately?
It didn’t really cross my mind until 6th Form, which is like the equivalent to college here, but for two years. I think when I was leaving high school at 16, I think, is when I really decided. I don’t think it became realistic until I saw my friends go before me.
Why do you feel it is important to travel?
I think it’s something everyone should do at some point in their life. Live somewhere different. It helps you to be open-minded and more culturally aware and appreciate things a lot more. Coming to the states, I’ve done things and experienced things I would never do if I lived at home. I’ve been on hikes and horseback riding. Just even the snow experience. It’s not something that you would be exposed to if you were in the same environment your whole life.
How did being a part of a team help you become acclimated to living here?
It’s really important to have your team to fall back on, because we’re all from different places. They’re basically my family away from home. Everyone brings something different. I’m also forced to be friends with my teammates. Not in a bad way, but I’m not the person to go out and make friends with people.
What is your feeling knowing you’ll graduate in May?
It’s more nerve-wracking than exciting at this moment only because I’m unsure of what I want to do next or what I want to be or what job I want to do. It’s exciting in the fact that I’m out of college.
Do you have some idea of what you want to do and where?
My main career focus is to become a collegiate basketball coach somewhere in the states. I just don’t see myself living somewhere else. When I think of living back home, there’s nothing that pushes me towards where my career is going to go.
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