Spotlight on Elena Kravchenko
Elena Kravchenko (pronounced Krav-CHENK-oh) is a freshman center for the women's basketball team. Standing at 6 foot 10 inches, Kravchenko is the tallest female ever in the ACC and is not phased by her new title. "What's the big deal? I didn't chose to be tall. No one chooses it and I'm just the person I am."
Kravchenko is making quite an impression on and off the basketball court at Virginia.
On the court, she is coming off the bench scoring and blocking. In the early season, she has averaged 1.2 points per game and .8 rebounds and .8 blocks per game. In high school at White Marsh in Plymouth, Pa. Kravchenko averaged 9.9 points per game with 4.1 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per game.
Off the court, Kravchenko is even more impressive. The first - year student is thousands of miles away from her homeland and family but she has made the adjustment and is loving her new home. Kravchenko was born in the small town of Minsk, Belarus (located in the former Soviet Union) where she lived with her parents and younger sister. After her junior year of high school she moved to the United States as a transfer student to further her career in basketball. "When I arrived in Philadelphia, my host family helped me along the way. They did a lot to make me feel at home and that was real nice of them".
Kravchenko's host family helped her make the adjustment to her new country and home. Kravchenko and her host family were reunited on November 16 when the Cavalier hosted William and Mary. Ann and Richard Carbo got to see Kravchenko as well as their daughter Nicole play at the collegiate level. Kravchenko and her team went on to defeat the Lady Tribe 71-57 at University Hall.
The adjustment to the American style of basketball on the collegiate level has been an adjustment that Kravchenko and she is doing just fine. "Here in America, basketball is such a great deal and has so many fans. In my country, it's not a big deal and there are not many fans who come to watch the games". Kravchenko has been spending these days learning the X's and O's of the Virginia basketball program and has done so with much success.
The style of basketball has been very different. "The intensity is much greater on the college level than on the high school level. In high school, you didn't always have to give 100%. Here at the Virginia level of play, you have to give 110% at all times even in practice". This has not been the only adjustment, she has had to make as a member of the Virginia Women's basketball team.
Not only has the style of basketball been different but the culture and the language has been quite an adjustment for Kravchenko. "It was a really hard change to make for me because of the language. When I got here I really didn't know the language", said Kravchenko who had four years of English in high school. "I wasn't used to talking to people who spoke English as a native language, the dialect was hard to understand. Sometimes I didn't know what people were talking about. Once I became familiar with the language, things got a lot easier and I was able to correctly express myself".
"The women's basketball program here is amazing. The coaches know what they're doing and they take care of their players. Not only do the coaches take care of us, but the support staff, like the conditioning coaches also take care of us. Everyone here is like one big family that takes care of everyone. That's something that's really good about Virginia".
This big family can be seen while the team is playing. "There is so much support here. It's nice to know that when I'm out there on the court playing, the whole team is behind me. I'm out there for the team and this sometimes makes me nervous". While watching Elena play, there is no apparent nervousness although she says that the pressure makes her a little uneasy rather than the game itself.
"I'm never really nervous but it's the pressure. I want to do well and when I'm playing it's my responsibility to represent a huge program like Virginia and that puts a lotof pressure on me. It puts pressure on me to know that you have to be good and you can't make mistakes".
Kravchenko has basketball in the blood. Her father, Vladimir played basketball for the National team and has been a constant supporter of her and her love of the game. When asked what she'll do after leaving Virginia or if she has any plans for the WNBA she answers, "I don't really know about the future. You can't say what may happen in four years so I don't make plans for that far in advance. We'll see what happens".
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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