January 26, 2011

WALLER BEGINS PRO CAREER WITH GERMANY’S TUS JENA BURGAUPARK

JENA, Germany – She's over 4,200 miles from Richmond, wears red and white, and her nickname is now "Der Bus". However, not much else has changed for Kita Waller (pictured, right) when she steps on the court. The four-year fixture of the VCU women's basketball program is now a member of Germany's TUS Jena Burgaupark Lady Baskets. And as they say, "life is good" for Waller.

"Being a professional player is a lot of fun," Waller boasts. "I get to travel and see Germany, play ball all day, every day, and work out when I want to."

How and why Waller would end up playing in Germany requires a historical look back. A brief history of basketball in Europe from the American perspective begins with the dominance of the United States "Dream Team" in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Newly formed countries like Lithuania, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro were just being discovered as nations by Americans, let alone countries that played basketball.

Flash forward nearly two decades later and Europe is home to a NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP. American players, from Josh Childress to Diana Taurasi, are taking advantage of the lucrative professional basketball opportunities in Europe. They've helped tighten the basketball bond between the two continents, and European leagues have moved from "minor league" in the eyes of Americans to legitimate professional showcases.

Waller showed fans of the Black & Gold she had professional ability. The Gainesville, Ga., native is in the top ten of seven different all-time school record categories, including points, assists and steals. She's also a member of the 1,000 point club (1,222), tied for the VCU single-game scoring record (35 points) and is the program's all-time leader in games played (122). Her career was capped by being named Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year and member of the All-CAA Second Team as a senior. Even with the impressive body of work, playing professionally wasn't a guarantee for Waller.

"At the end of my career at VCU, I kept working and working," Waller noted. "I didn't want to give up on my dreams so I stayed in shape as best as I could. Even when it didn't seem like I was leaving, I never gave up."

After her last collegiate game in March, she spent the rest of 2010 staying in shape and exploring opportunities. After a chance in Cypress fell through, and a few months of staff hoops with the VCU athletic department, Waller finally landed on her feet in Europe.

After spending her life in Georgia and Virginia, there's adjusting to do for life in eastern Germany.

"Life in Germany is pretty good," observed Waller. "There are many things that I miss from the States. For instance, they have no ice. No free water and no free refills. I had never been so happy in my life to eat ice last night. Another thing I miss is when we go grocery shopping and the people bag our things for us. You have to pay for the grocery bags."

The season is still very young for the Lady Baskets, and Waller is just taking the usual "one-game-at-a-time" approach. In the first game of the year, Waller had crucial late free throws to clinch the victory over TSVE Bielefeld. The rest of Waller's mission is simple.

"Right now my upcoming goals are to keep playing and try and make sure I have somewhere else to play next season," Waller concluded.

Until then, Rams fans will wish Waller the best of luck.

"Viel glück" Kita.

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