Natasha Thames has been dreaming about playing overseas since the sixth grade. This summer, that dream became a reality.
The Temple graduate signed with Finland’s Kotka Peli-Karhut for its upcoming season, something Thames said still hasn’t sunken in.
“To see it a reality, I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Thames said. “That I’m really going to be doing what I’ve been dreaming about.”
“I’m getting a lot of support from a lot of people,” Thames added. “Not just my family, but my friends as well. Congratulating me and knowing that this has been my goal since I was younger. I’m getting a lot of support from everybody.”
The process of finding a team for the 6-foot-0 forward picked up right after the Owls’ season ended.
“Agents got in contact with me after the season, and they said that they wanted to represent me,” Thames said.
Thames ended up choosing International Basketball Federation registered agent Thomas Prodromou, and started looking for what offers were out there for her after that.
“We were receiving different calls from teams,” Thames said. “It’s kind of like a waiting game to see who wanted to pick me up, who wanted me on their team, if I fit their team and just waiting on a job offer.”
Thames mentioned one offer she received from a German team, though she opted to pass on it, waiting to hear back from other teams.
But it was getting late, and she ultimately decided to take up Peli-Karhut’s offering.
“I didn’t want to pass up too many offers to a point where I would be left with no job,” Thames said. “Especially because the season starts pretty soon.”
Even with time running short, though, Thames believed going to play in Finland was the best fit for her.
“I’m really excited about Finland,” Thames said. “Not necessarily the weather, because I heard it’s super cold, but just because I know the team I’m going to be playing for is one of the best teams in Finland. We’re in one of the top divisions, so I think it’s going to be good exposure for me.”
“I think this is a good place to start,” she added.
Peli-Karhut finished second in the SM-sarja last season.
As a redshirt senior for Temple, Thames averaged 31.5 minutes per game, with 10.3 points per game and a team-best 7.2 rebounds per game. She also made 69 percent of her free throws, shot another team-best 51.5 percent from the field and led the Owls with 23 blocks.
Playing in a record 134 games as an Owl, Thames averaged 24.3 mpg. for her Temple career, along with 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 56.8 percent from the line.
After starting all 30 games in her final season, Thames took a much-needed break, for however brief it was.
“Of course I took some time off after the season to let my body rest and just to get that break that I haven’t had since I started playing college basketball,” Thames said. “I took a little break, but it couldn’t be too long. I don’t want to be out of shape for that long. But right now I’m training.
“I’m getting back to running, working out hard,” Thames said. “I’m still lifting weights, so I’m still training.”
Thames isn’t very concerned about an adjustment to her new surroundings either, thanks in part to another former Owl, Shenita Landry (’09), already having experience with the team Thames is set to play for.
“[Landry] told me that the country is great, the city is great, the fans are wonderful, the coach speaks really good English and she just told me all good things about it,” Thames said. “So her experience and the things that she had to say about the team and the city and stuff, I’m not too worried about it.”
Thames will have to report to Peli-Karhut no later than Sept. 10, and now that she has finally made it to the pros, she has new goals in mind.
“I just want to dominate the league,” Thames said. “I want to help the team get the title back.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.