In the driver's seat
Freshman from Iceland has Lady Frogs cruising to another 20-win season.
By Mark Wright '07 (MS)
Like most freshman college basketball players, TCU guard Helena Sverrisdottir is going through an adjustment period.
The most difficult lessons confronting the Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, native have not come on the basketball court. A starter since the first game of the season, Sverrisdottir is establishing herself as one of the Mountain West’s most versatile performers.
If only she were as comfortable driving down Interstate 30 as she is driving into the paint in Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
"I’m still so scared when I’m driving on the freeway,” Sverrisdottir said.
Sverrisdottir, who comes from a country where most of the roads are only two lanes wide and the entire population is half that of Fort Worth, has no such trepidation playing in big-time basketball games. As a member of the national team and a top-level club team in Iceland, she’s knocked elbows with some of Europe’s elite women’s athletes.
Now, she’s proving her mettle on this side of the Atlantic. The 6-foot-1 guard helped power TCU to a late-season hot streak of seven straight victories and nine wins in 10 games. Her efforts earned Sverrisdottir conference player of the week honors in early February after she averaged nearly 15 points and nine rebounds in critical victories against San Diego State and BYU.
"She’s a very mature player,” coach Jeff Mittie said. "She’s played at a high level internationally. So that’s helped her.”
Sverrisdottir had no designs on working herself into the college game slowly. She moved to Texas last summer and began training to become a starter from game one.
"I just decided I was going to work my ass off in practice,” Sverrisdottir said. "That was my goal for the season – being in the starting five.”
The task wasn’t easy. Because he already has fast, athletic guards at his disposal, Mittie moved Sverissdottir from her natural position of point guard to the shooting guard spot, which provides fewer touches than she’s used to.
Initially, Mittie said he wondered how well Sverrisdottir would handle moving without the ball – cutting away from opponents, flashing into the lane, and otherwise doing unglamorous tasks that might not get tallied in the box score but help teams win in close games.
"I think the easy part is judging their physical skills,” Mittie said. "What you don’t know is how they are going to process all the information that you’re throwing at them.”
Fortunately for the coach, she proved a quick study. When not taking a slower opponent off the dribble or shooting over a smaller foe, Sverrisdottir has shown the ability to fight for rebounds, dish out assists and, on defense, chip in a few steals.
"A lot of diversity – that’s what she brings,” said freshman post Micah Garoutte, a fellow starter and Sverrisdottir’s roommate. "She’s got a knack for the game.”
Garoutte describes Sverrisdottir as calm, thoughtful and fun-loving – but almost never hyper. The friends say you will often finding them hanging out in their residence hall room, except for brief sojourns to dinner or movies with their teammates. And then there’s shopping.
Sverrisdottir figures she could take 1,000 trips to Hulen Mall and still find plenty trinkets to buy at a women’s boutique or apparel to purchase at a sporting goods store. Compared to the pricey items back home, the inventory peddled by Fort Worth retailers seems a bargain.
"It’s crazy,” Sverrisdottir said. "I could shop here every day.”
Garoutte said she’s tried unsuccessfully to break Sverissdottir of her shopping habit. At least, she said, her teammate is becoming less apprehensive in the driver’s seat.
"It was kind of a shock for her at first,” Garoutte said, "but now she’s getting used to it, I think.”
After all, Sverrisdottir is a fast learner.
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