|Julie McBride is proud to representing the country of her great-grandmother|
By Tristan Lavalette
After three straight losses to open EuroBasket Women 2015, Poland are on the brink of elimination and need to win their final Group B match against Italy tonight while relying on other results to avoid an early exit.
McBride, the diminutive playmaker measuring in at 1.63 metres, has endured a tough tournament being unable to provide the defensively oriented Poland team with the pizzazz they desperately crave.
Opposing teams have carefully strategised curtailing McBride, who at her best can insert a healthy dose of energy and flair into her team. But thus far, McBride's shot has been off and she has been unable to penetrate rigid defences. On defence, her lack of size has been somewhat of a liability.
But for McBride, playing in the tournament has meant so much more than merely trying to win games. Originally from New York, McBride's long career has included stints in the WNBA and in Turkey, where she was hopeful of getting a Turkish passport.
"I was in Turkey for seven years and tried to get the Turkish passport but they changed the rules and I didn't make the age cut so I couldn't get it," she said.
Despite her great grandmother hailing from Poland, McBride admits she "never thought about" obtaining a Polish passport. That was until a few years ago when a Polish coach suggested she consider it.
As their first-ever naturalised player, McBride said she was proud to be a trailblazer in a determined bid to propel Poland into the European basketball elite. "Basketball isn't as big there as in Turkey or other places, so we are playing for the future of Poland basketball," she said.
Weekly lessons has helped McBride learn the basics of the Polish language and she said her lack of fluency doesn't hinder communicating with teammates and coaches. "Most in the team are good at speaking English," she said. "Sometimes they have a problem understanding me because I talk too fast as I'm from New York....we do everything fast.
"We have play calls both in English and Polish. But basketball is basketball, so it's not difficult."
Representing Poland has helped McBride reconnect with her Polish descent. She also hoped to one day coach Poland but believed, at age 32, retirement was still a few years away.
"I am proud of my Polish background," she said. "My family is really happy for me. Unlike other naturalised players, I actually do have blood from the country I'm representing.
"This is for my family."