With her high school senior year coming to a close, women’s basketball senior Moina Snyder was put in a position unfathomable to many American teenagers. Instead of coasting through the last few months of school after receiving an acceptance letter, French students are met face to face with the daunting task of passing the Baccalaureate, a necessity in order to continue one’s education, before even considering applying to college. In retrospect, it was one of many differences that struck Snyder since coming to the U.S.
“My senior year, like three quarters of the seniors were on anti-stress pills,” she said. “My graduation was nothing like what it is here. When I hear all this talk about prom … if you fail the Baccalaureate, you have to take your last year of high school over again.”
[img_assist|nid=20848|title=Give it to me|desc=Junior Moina Snyder (11) handles the ball in an exhibition against McGill last fall. (Trevor Vieweg / Sun Staff)|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=97]
Snyder also faced the personal challenge of continuing her basketball career in a country where basketball is, “not a new sport,” she explains, “but not prominent.” Wanting to eventually go to medical school, she realized the only option was to cross the Atlantic and give an opportunity to the great unknown.
“I only knew one person in the U.S.,” she said. “He was a retired coach living in California and he put me in contact with U. of Pacific. I planned on going anywhere that would accept me. I only sent out one tape. U. of Pacific thought I might not adapt well to the physical game here, so instead they put me in contact with Umpqua. They said it was a good place to develop for two years.”
Umpqua Community College is a school with roughly 1,000 full time students and another 15,000 part-time participants. Snuggled five miles north of tiny Roseburg, Ore., Umpqua was certainly no France but for Snyder, it served the purpose that U.C. Pacific intended. Over her two years in the Northwest, Snyder began to learn how American basketball worked.
“Honestly, there are not as many talented athletes in France,” she said. “So, we construct the game around offenses and fundamentals. We use lots of screens, passes and run lots of plays. There’s no conditioning either, no running or lifting. I had never lifted until I came to the U.S. In France, we play more on a team vision.”
Standing at 6-1, Snyder fit the bill of the prototypical modern day European. Tall enough to play in the post in the U.S., Snyder was still taught and raised as a guard in France.
“In Europe, I had to play guard. Here, I didn’t know if they wanted me to play post or guard. I’m really not big enough to play a lot of post, but I don’t really fit the mold of a guard here.”
In her first year at Umpqua, Snyder focused on her rebounding, pulling down 11 per game, while chipping in 15 points in addition.
“On my previous team, I played the five and had a really good rebounding year,” she said. “Sophomore year, we ran the ball a lot, and my rebounding went down. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to balance running and rebounding.”
Snyder is saddled with that task due to the versatility of this year’s women’s basketball team (7-9, 3-0 Ivy). It is a team Snyder would not even have been a part of if not for another random contact.
“After my sophomore year, I visited Pacific again and didn’t really like it,” she said. “I knew one other coach. My dad used to play in Europe professionally, and he had played with this guy. All I knew was that he was on the East Coast. I didn’t even know about the Ivy League.”
Still, Snyder trusted in his recommendation that Cornell had a solid basketball program and would aid Snyder in her pursuit of a career in osteopathic medicine. So, again, on a whim and a recommendation, Snyder packed up and moved to East Hill. The transition was not as smooth as she would have liked, however.
“I was kind of confused,” she said. “I didn’t know how to benefit my team. I never had the American attitude of ‘I’m taking it to the hole no matter what,’ the idea that I could take anyone 1-on-1. I was trying to pass, defend and over help. I was making an incredibly large amount of turnovers. I knew I wanted to change, but I just wanted to always help my teammates.”
After an 0-7 start in which much of the team, not just Snyder, appeared lost on the floor, assistant coach Dave Parker sat down with some of the post players. It turned out to be a conversation that turned the Snyder, and the team, around.
“I wasn’t thinking about my game enough,” was the advice she said she was given. “Things will open up once I become a threat. I came here and shut down, but now I’m opening up.”
The strategy has worked for Snyder, leading the team in rebounding in over half of its last 10 games, and scoring in three of those affairs. The new mindset has fueled the team as well, as the Red has captured six of seven contests, including all three of its conference matchups.
“What’s great about this team is that it has room for different styles of players,” she said. “They didn’t ask me to change anything. Everyone has their own talents, and now we’re finally playing together and that’s why we’re winning.”
So what else is there for Snyder to accomplish?
“Well, my goal was to gain 20 pounds,” she said. “That didn’t work. I’ve been put on protein shakes and lifting. I guess I just have really fast metabolism. I just can’t eat between meals. In my country you don’t snack. I could beat anyone in an eating contest, but I was raised to have a substantial breakfast and three big meals a day.”
As for a career, Snyder vacillates on where she will end up down the line.
“I’ll finish med school here, but I don’t know where” she said, “I mean, wherever I go in the U.S., it’s still a plane ride to get home. After that, I don’t know if I’ll go back. I kind of like to move around. I like to travel. The U.S. has so many different cultures.”
For now, Snyder just wants to focus on basketball and classes — not to mention trying to figure out what some of those words are that head coach Dayna Smith uses when she’s yelling at the team.