Daley Loving Time In France

01 February 2005
By Doug Booth, PA International

The French have a reputation for l'amour and some of it has rubbed off on Grace Daley this winter.

Daley, 26, the shooting guard for USO Mondeville in the FIBA Europe Cup Women, has found her special brand of love in the shape of fellow American guard Chris Coleman.

And it was basketball that brought them together, although neither were supposed to spend the winter in the city of Caen, on the Normandy coast.

I love the European lifestyle
Grace Daley

"I had a contract with a Spanish club but that fell through at the last minute so I ended up coming here," said Daley.

"Chris had planned to retire and had a job lined up in the States but the week before he was to start work he got a call from Caen."

So the pair arrived in Caen - Daley to play for Mondeville, a suburb of the city, and Coleman to try and resurrect the fortunes of the French division two side.

"His team came to our gym one day and, being two Americans in a foreign country, we started talking," recalled Daley.

"We exchanged phone numbers and he would come round to my place because we both have a passion for playing PlayStation 2, in particular NBA Live.

"The last thing I thought was to find someone here in France. It's all divine.

"I usually don't stay in a place long enough and there has been no reason to look for any (romance)."

But all that changed back in September - and now the couple are talking about a summer wedding, probably in Daley's home state of Florida.

The blossoming friendship and romance has not diverted Daley's attention from her basketball.

The former Tulane star, who holds the all-time points scoring record at the college with 2,249 points, was at her peak in the FIBA Europe Cup Women play-offs, scoring a game-high 28, including 10 from 10 at the free-throw line, against Phard Napoli.

But Daley's solo effort was not enough as the Italian club collected their second successive win over Mondeville, winning 79-62 as the French were unceremoniously dumped out of the play-offs.

"We were very disappointed with the loss," she said.

"Our goal was to qualify for next season's FIBA EuroLeague Women competition.

"We still have a chance of doing that through the France domestic league.

"We are currently tied for first place with Bourges and Valenciennes, who are playing EuroLeague this season."

Daley said she did not know what to expect in France after playing the last four years with Viterbo in Italy and Vigo in Spain.

Grace Daley
"But I feel it has been a perfect fit," she said.

"The main emphasis here has been defence. We depend on the defence to create the offence. I fit nicely into this system."

One thing is certain - the WNBA has seen the last of Grace Daley.

After four years at four different clubs - Minnesota Lynx (2000), New York Liberty (2001), Houston Comets (2002) and Phoenix Mercury (2003) - she turned her back on the competition last year.

"It's a league of opportunity. You have to be in the right place at the right time (to succeed)," said Daley.

"I spent four years playing behind seasoned veterans and Olympic champions.

"It was a case of waiting my turn and I don't have that much patience."

Daley also believes playing 12 months a year is too much for her 167 cm/66kg frame.

So from now on it's Europe through and through - with husband-to-be Chris by her side.

"I love the European lifestyle," she said.

"It's a relaxed, stress-free environment. Back home in Florida it's so easy to become part of the rat-race."

And what will Daley do when her basketball career finishes?

"I am a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and I draw a lot of my strength from God and prayers," she said.

"I would like to become involved in the spiritual guidance of athletes - it's an important aspect of sport."

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