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New York City
June 2002

NOT NO MORE!!: St. John's Women's Basketball
By Tom Kertes

“Not no More!” is sure to become the battle-cry for the St. John's Women's Basketball team this season. Though grammatically incorrect, it's certainly right on target in expressing the emotions of a ready-to-fight-back team coming off of an atrocious 3-24 season.

Then again, while Hungarians may not be big on grammar, emotions have always been their strong point. So the Red Storm should be an emotional juggernaut with no less than three Hungarian girls on next season's roster.

Five-seven guard Reka Szavuly, “the author”, will be accompanied by 5-11 swinger Nora Gyuris, and 6-4 center Kati Kurtosi. “Not no more!”, Reka repeats, her dark eyes flashing. “We'll be much better than that! For one thing, we have a new coach. She seems vonderful! For another, myself and Kati we were out with injuries all last year. But this time around we'll be ready!”

And what is this terrifically Hungarian trio doing right now to get ready for next season? “Not much,” Reka raps. “Just chillin'.” Think what you will of hip-hop expressions, if you haven't heard one pronounced with a Hungarian accent; well, you haven't lived yet.

Rap, of course, has been the least of the culture shock the three girls have experienced during their brief U.S. stay. Thing is, in the new millennium the world may be getting smaller and smaller, but people hailing from different societies, cultures, and traditions remain quite different.

And that takes some getting used to — especially if you are a true student-athlete with mighty little “Chillin' Time” on your hands during the season. And especially if that athlete wants to succeed both on and off of the basketball floor.

“Understanding people, and making yourself understood, was the toughest thing at first,” says Kati who, along with Reka, has been in the U.S. less than two years. “I only had one year of English at home.” “I had eight!” adds Reka with a smile. “And I'm still having problems communicating. Studying a language a couple of hours a week at home was one thing. But living it full-time is quite another.”

Nora, a junior who played some valuable minutes last year and speaks the best English, found the people here a tad too different at first. “Nobody looks you in the eye,” she says. “At first, people would make fun of me, or my accent. You ask something, people answer you on the run — if they answer you at all. Nobody seems to have time to stop and really talk to you. Life here, until you get used to it, is just too fast!”

Once Reka and Kati transferred from Colby Community College last season to join her at St. John's last year, Nora managed to slow down a bit and began to feel more adjusted. “The three of us, we are such great friends. We really understand each other, so we always hang out together. But, with a couple of girls on the team, even that was a problem. Sometimes, when we were speaking to each other Hungarian, they thought we would be talking about them. Which we were not, of course. But it just took some time, I guess. Now, we're good friends with every girl on the team.”

Ironically, the Big Three — all members of the Hungarian National Cadet (Junior) Team, all heavily recruited by U.S. colleges— should never have ended up at St. John's. “I'm not religious, so when I was getting all those recruiting letters I threw every one of them that started with a ”St. Something ” into the garbage,” says Reka. So why the Storm? “Well, they were the one school that really followed up with us aggressively,” Nora says. “And we all wanted to play in the Big East, which is the best competition, the No. 1 women's basketball conference in the country.”

“And, most of all, we wanted to live in New York!”

Which, of course, is very different from Colby, Kansas. Or the rest of the U.S.A. Or Hungary.

“Everything's just so huge, you can't believe it,” laughs Nora. “The cars, the buildings! We're in Manhattan walking around every free moment we have. And we still haven't seen half the things we've wanted to see.”

And, for the longest time now, St. John's basketball fans haven't seen a truly competitive women's team. But this year, helped by the Trio of Magical Magyars, they might very well see a much-improved squad.

Or, at least, a much more emotional one.#


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