Calais Up

Oct. 23, 2010

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Brigitte Ardossi’s hunger to play the game of basketball has never been in question. This summer she proved just how far she would go to satisfy that hunger.

Ardossi, who graduated last spring, was part of a record-setting class at Georgia Tech that won 88 games and she was a major contributor to last year’s class, which won a school-record 23 games. Along the way, the rugged power forward became only the 24th Yellow Jacket to reach the 1,000-point mark and was remarkably durable, playing in a school-record 130 games, 82 of them starts.

After graduation, the Melbourne, Australia, native was the 21st overall pick of the Atlanta Dream in the 2010 WNBA Draft, but she did not stick with them. Undeterred and still eager to play, Ardossi headed to Europe, where she has found a home in the Elite French League, with Cote D’Opale Basket Calais (COB Calais).

Ardossi took a few minutes to answer questions for Sting Daily about learning a new lifestyle, a new style of game, and a new language.

STING DAILY: How did you wind up in France with COB Calais?

Brigitte Ardossi: I was actually supposed to be going to Italy, because i have the advantage of being able to get an Italian passport because my grandfather is Italian. However the opportunity came quicker for me to go to COB Calais and so I took it.

SD: How would you rate the quality of play in the French Elite League compared to the levels at which you’ve played?

ARDOSSI: The quality is comparable to the WNBA. The women are extremely experienced, some have played professionally since they were 16 years old and I play against women who range from that age to upwards of 30. They are all extremely tall and athletic, also. Some teams have players across the entire board who don’t go under the 5-9 mark including the point guard.

SD: What did you take from your WNBA experience?

ARDOSSI: The intensity, physicality and precision of the game. Sometimes you play older players who don’t move as quickly but are so experienced and feel the game so well that they understand positioning and timing. But these girls are extremely athletic.

SD: How have you gotten around the language barrier?

ARDOSSI: I always like new things and never sit and wait for them to happen. I knew, going to another country, language was going to be a barrier, so I took some necessary actions to try and get a step ahead. I learned French briefly in high school so I was already good at basic pronunciations. Now it is just a matter of memorizing words and meanings. French is a very difficult language, but I am coping well and some iPod applications and podcasts have also helped. My coach loves it when I answer him in French. The most common phrase in the French league is ‘allons-y’ (pronounced like alley) it means ‘Lets go.’

SD: Are there any familiar faces — fellow countrymen, former teammates, former opponents — playing on COB Calais or other French leagues?

ARDOSSI: I am playing with an American who played at Southern Mississippi last season. I didn’t know her personally but she did play with one of my old Australian teammates which shows you how connected the basketball world is. However she is injured right now so they have temporarily replaced her with a New Zealander, who played at Oregon, and I played against her twice so we had that connection. There are plenty of WNBA players on other teams and some Australians, too.

SD: Does the team supply living quarters, transportation?

ARDOSSI: It depends on your contract, but in my case yes, and yes. I have got a really good set-up. The first day i arrived (after over 24 hours of traveling from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, then to Paris, then to Calais) i was taken to my apartment to settle for a few hours or so, then picked up by a staff member to go watch practice and meet the team and coach. I went outside thinking they were going to drive me but they made me drive my very first day and didn’t give me directions back! Luckily, I’m good with direction and a manual car (or stick as Americans would say).

SD: What’s a typical day like for you?

ARDOSSI: I wake up, make some breakfast, practice in the morning for two hours, lunch, practice in the evening for two hours, then dinner then sleep. It’s my job now, so its basketball all day everyday. Now we have offically began with the season so practice will hopefully be shorter, however I’m not holding my breath. This is completely different from college. [NOTE: COB Calais was 0-2, heading into their game Saturday night].

SD: What is your favorite site you’ve seen?

ARDOSSI: I had the luxury of visiting there with Georgia Tech over a year ago and loved it. I just really enjoy the laid-back lifestyle and cheese. My favorite French site was the Eiffel Tower at night, but I did just visit a famous shopping galleria in Paris and that definitely has become my new favorite.

SD: What would you like to get out of your time in France, as far as a life experience and basketball-wise?

ARDOSSI: Life-wise I want to be able to speak the French basics well. Basketball-wise I’d like the possibility of a shot at another WNBA team, but my ultimate goal is to play for the Australian National Team one day.

SD: How much do you keep in touch with Coach Joseph and Tech teammates? Will you keep up with them during their upcoming season?

ARDOSSI: I e-mailed Coach Jo the other day to let her know where I was and she responded that she was in Paris, which is two-and-a-half hours away. I talk to at least one of my old teammates every day. Technology is really helpful with facilitating this especially with the time differences. [She is six hours ahead of U.S. time]. I will be keeping up with the team every day. I don’t think anything will ever replace the experience i had at Georgia Tech, and I’m surprised that even though it wasn’t an easy experience I miss it so very much. You think you won’t miss class, or arduous practices, but when it’s all you knew for so long it does leave a bit of a hole. I am just greatful that all that I experienced and went through at Georgia Tech made me a better and more well-rounded person. I have definitely left well-prepared for what the future holds for me. I am just excited that all that I have spoken about for my entire basketball career is finally being brought to fruition.

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