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The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947

THE GANNON KNIGHT

The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947

THE GANNON KNIGHT

A look inside the international student-athlete experience

Erie, Pa., — The path to competing collegiately is different for everyone. The ability to take years of hard work and talent to the next level is typically the dream for many collegiate student-athletes. Athletes travel near and far to their respective institutions to fulfill this dream.

The NCAA reports since 2021 that it had 24,000 international student-athletes across all three divisions participate in NCAA sports. Five percent of international Division 2 female athletes participate in women’s basketball.  had the chance to speak with two international student-athletes here on the Gannon University women’s basketball team from Australia.

Maddy Wheatley is a redshirt sophomore guard from Canberra, Australia. “In Australia, we don’t have high school or college sports, we have more AAU-type leagues. I knew I wanted to go to school and study marine biology, but I also wanted to still play basketball- I decided the best route would be to experience American college and try something new” (Wheatley). Before arriving at Gannon, Wheatley was a development player for the UC Capitals in the Women’s National Basketball League.

When discussing the differences in training experience from here in the States to her regiment back in Canberra, Wheatley described it as,”- does not differ a whole lot back home intensity wise but it differs in the sense that you go every day and sometimes multiple times a day. Preseason is a lot more “full on” over here too, but it gets you in shape for the season.”

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Pictured: Maddy Wheatley (Megan Revell)

In the 2023-2024 season, Wheatley has scored 17 points. With the team’s most recent win over Pitt-Johnstown, Wheatley led Gannon with nine rebounds and five assists.

First-year post-player Mia Slater also hails from Canberra, Australia. Slater was an Australian State representative player and the MVP of the 2022 Waratah League Open Women’s Grand Final. When speaking about her experience thus far in the States she mentions experiencing more American approaches to athletics.

“We had an away game in East Stroudsburg, and they had a marching band in the stands while we were playing. I’d never seen a marching band before let alone one at a game so that was pretty cool!”

Pictured: Mia Slater (Megan Revell)

However, the student-athlete experience can have tough moments and days. “Our experience is super similar to those of non-athletes who are also international students. I feel like a lot of people see it- because we are joining a team/group that it’s not hard to adjust because we automatically have a support system in our sport. But it’s still really scary moving to a new country and being a bit isolated from your loved ones. What’s helped me with this feeling has definitely been getting to know other international students and just talking about home and what we miss- but also what we are excited for while we are in the U.S.” (Slater).

Both Wheatley and Slater plan on returning to Australia after Gannon. Wheatley hopes to work at the Great Barrier Reef and work with turtles while still pursuing professional basketball. Slater also has hopes of playing semi-professionally and seeing where it takes her.

The Golden Knights hold their 3rd place ranking in the WBCA Division 2 Top 25. This ranking is the highest attained by the Gannon women’s basketball team since they were also ranked third later on in the 2013-2014 season.

This season Gannon has ignited an impressive 18-game winning streak. The team remains 13-0 in the PSAC West and 21-1 overall. The Golden Knights prepare to face Seton Hill and extend their winning streak on Wednesday, January 31 at the Hagerty Family Events Center.

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About the Contributor
Megan Revell, Sports Editor
Megan Revell is a junior on the acrobatics and tumbling team here at Gannon University. She is majoring in communications journalism. Megan is from Tri Cities Washington, and she loves to travel, tumble and learn new skills! Last semester she was a contributing student writer and is so excited to represent sports in The Gannon Knight this semester!  

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