By Madisen Carter
Professional basketball player, Asha Thomas, has been playing the game of basketball since she was just five years old. She played AAU basketball for nine years, played high school ball at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, and played all four years at the University of California, Berkeley. She added a great amount to her resume growing up, and in 2019 she was able to add playing professional basketball overseas to the list. Thomas is now in her second year playing overseas and is currently playing in Germany for Eigner Angels Nördlingen.
Playing basketball overseas was not something Thomas always had in mind for her future. In fact, it was towards the end of her sophomore year to the beginning of her junior year of college when she decided that playing basketball professionally could be her career. When she graduated from Cal in 2019, Thomas went overseas to England to play basketball with the Sheffield Hatters.
“It was actually tough even before [I got to England] because it's hard to get overseas… But it just happened that I had a connection and I was blessed with the opportunity to go to England and I made the best out of it. I ended up being one of the top five players in the league that did really well my first season,” Thomas said.
Thomas was in England for one year until the Pandemic hit. She then took a year off and headed back to her hometown because she was not sure if players were going to be allowed back overseas and wanted to be on the safe side. During that time she became a part of the Unlimited Potential Basketball team as a player development coach.
In August of 2021, Thomas left for Germany to continue her professional career. She has had to learn how to live by herself again and learn how to take care of her body mentally, physically and emotionally. Thomas said it has definitely been an experience so far.
“I never thought I would get to be in Germany ever. I mean yes, [maybe for] travel but for basketball? A 5’4 point guard? A team wanting me? And it's not that my confidence went down or anything like that, it's just rare,” Thomas said. “So the transition is tough, and I would say because I'm a homebody. I love my family, I love where I live at, and then being thousands and thousands of miles away, you are alone, even though you're with teammates, you know, and people that are supposed to take care of you.”
FaceTime and having supportive teammates has helped Thomas cope with being far from home. She said it has helped having teammates in similar situations because they are in it together and have the same goals. Thomas said she has been blessed with not only great teammates in her two years of playing overseas, but also great coaches.
“I've had the best of both [teammates and coaches] and that is rare. Very rare from what I've heard from former teammates I’ve played with or even people that I played against,” Thomas said. “So our connection has been really good. I would definitely call them another part of my family for sure. They make things not just easier, but they make you enjoy the experience.”
Thomas has enjoyed her time in Germany so far. She said the scenery in Germany is beautiful and green, the food is amazing and the people that she is around are generous and helpful. She even said she has been trying to learn the language a little bit.
When Thomas looks back on her basketball career in the states compared to her career overseas, there are many key differences between the two and the types of playing styles. The physicality overseas is different, it is more aggressive, the speed is faster. She said it is a different world and sometimes an individual will not understand until they are in it.
“I would say just be prepared to be uncomfortable. Even when you're in that phase or in that stage of [any situation,] you just got to push through,” Thomas said.
The biggest piece of advice Thomas can give to any young athlete who wants to play professionally overseas is to make sure the foundation of your game is to have fun. She said regardless of what anyone says, do something that you love and that you are passionate about.
“If you don't have fun while you're playing, I would say there's less chance that you will have an opportunity to play at an elite level. College [or] professional, you got to have fun with it because if that fun is not there, you're not going to go as far as you think you would want to go,” Thomas said. “Have fun, don't be satisfied, keep working, keep progressing.”