Jan. 7, 1998
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
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
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
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
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".