BOULDER, Colo. — Alina Hartmann had a busy summer. While the majority of the Colorado women’s basketball team was training in Boulder, the 6-foot freshman was in her native Germany, competing in the Under-20 European Basketball Championship for Women.
Her personal numbers were good, but her impact on the German team was better. She averaged 8.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game to lead the U-20 squad to an 8-1 finish and a first-place showing.
Not bad for a player who hasn’t even turned 19.
After her stellar summer, Hartmann turned her attention to CU and a basketball program that has been on the rise since Linda Lappe took over as head coach. Lappe has had nothing but praise for Hartmann since she arrived on campus and believes the young German will have an instant impact.
“When she moves on the floor, she looks like a returner,” says Lappe. “She communicates like a returner. There’s a lot of little things skill-wise that she’ll have to learn but we’ve been really impressed with her so far.”
What makes Hartmann’s journey to Boulder all the more impressive is how relatively easy it was to get her to CU. Although technology has become a vital part of recruiting, actually seeing the athlete is usually one of the most important aspects of evaluating a potential recruit. As it pertains to basketball, players from outside of the United States are at a disadvantage when it comes to face-to-face communication. But Lappe and her staff went the extra mile to see Hartmann before she came to Boulder.
“I had a [teammate] here, Sabrina Scott, who played in Germany, actually played overseas for 10 years,” Lappe explains. “So the amount of relationships that she was able to cultivate while she was over there led her to knowing about this 17-year-old kid in Germany. I had the chance to watch her on film and really liked what I saw on film, and had the chance in December to go over and watch her play.”
Within minutes, Lappe knew that Hartmann was a player who could benefit the Buffaloes.
“Even in warm-ups I could tell I was really going to like her just on how she warmed up and the intensity with which she warmed up,” Lappe remembers.
From that point on, it was a mission to get Hartmann in black and gold, and last April it finally happened. The guard/forward from Bamberg, Germany, signed with CU, becoming the 15th international player but the first German to come and suit up for the Buffs. Lappe’s commitment to Hartmann didn’t go unnoticed, as the freshman says it was a major part of her coming to Colorado.
“The main thing was that coach Lappe came and watched a game in Germany and that was really good,” says Hartmann. “And I wasn’t able to come here and see the campus, but they showed me through Skype and they really cared about me.”
What comes next for Hartmann is actually playing with the team. Adjusting to the American style of play is one thing, but that isn’t the only adaptation that Hartmann has to make.
“The biggest difference is the food,” Hartmann says with a laugh. “I’m not really used to fast food and stuff, but it’s fun to be here. And of course basketball is different as well. At home, I was the best player on my team, and now everyone is the best, and it’s really challenging.”
While Hartmann believes that she still has a lot of work to do, Lappe believes that Hartmann is ahead of many teammates in one important component of the game.
“I think she, in a lot of ways, competes with our returners. She’s in really good shape,” says Lappe. “She competed in the preseason with Haley [Smith] and Lexy [Kresl] and Arielle [Roberson], who are in the best shape of anyone on our team. She doesn’t have to think about how tired she is, she just has to think of becoming a better basketball player.”
Although the physical aspect of the game is vital, Hartmann is still trying to adjust to American basketball. Where she has an advantage in experience at a high level, she is still trying to adjust to a very different type of game.
— Colorado WBasketball (@CUBuffsWBB) April 17, 2014
“I played with the national team so I have the experience playing with older people, but these girls know the American way of playing basketball,” Hartmann says. “Everything for me is different in Germany so it’s a little easier for them.”
One of the biggest critiques of the European game, for both men and women, is that the style of play isn’t nearly as physical as it is in the United States. Europeans have been known to be very good shooters, and Hartmann fits that mold, being an effective three-point shooter. But Lappe believes that there are other things besides physicality that the young German needs to work on.
“Her footwork is probably the biggest thing right now,” Lappe explains. “Being able to make moves without traveling and being strong with her footwork both offensively and defensively.”
Practices began last week, and there is no doubt that the Buffs will be working even harder now that star forward Arielle Roberson suffered a season-ending knee injury. Not only will the Buffs have to elevate their game as a whole, but individuals need to do the same. Lappe believes that Hartmann is one of those players.
“On her club team [DJK Brose Bamberg], she played the ‘4’ and the ‘3’ and guarded both the ‘4’ and the ‘3,’” Lappe says. “She’s six foot, six-foot-one, and so we look at her as somebody to fill some of the things that Arielle brought.”
Hartmann views filling that void as a team effort, and in the mental aspect of stepping up she’s getting an assist from the coaching staff.
“I think the main thing is that I’m getting mentally stronger here,” says Hartmann. “Coaches want 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time, so that helps make us stronger.”
Even with Roberson out of the lineup for the season, the goal remains the same: win championships. While she is a long way from home, speaking a second language, Hartmann is as clear as day with what she wants to do to help her team.
“[I want to] win championships and be as good as possible, and I just want to give my part to that.”