It was less than a year ago that the California State University, Northridge women’s basketball team — led in large part by seniors Ashlee Guay, Camille Mahlknecht and Janae Sharpe — celebrated their second consecutive Big West championship.
With their prolific Matador basketball careers now over, the trio left their homes in California to take on a new challenge: professional basketball in Europe.
Sharpe is currently in Brasov, Romania playing for professional team Olimpia Brasov, while Guay and Mahlknecht’s basketball journey led them to Keltern, Germany, where they play for Rutronik Stars Keltern.
Guay, CSUN’s all-time scoring leader, said she relishes her new full-time job — playing the game she has always loved.
“Going from [CSUN] to playing professional basketball [in Germany] is a huge transition,” Guay said. “It was really weird to me at first to not go to class and work. I was like, ‘Wow my only obligation is basketball!’ You are your own business and have to invest in yourself and remember that this is your job.”
While Guay admits to missing her home in San Diego, she still has one of her best friends, Malknecht, by her side.
“You have those days where you miss home, but we are lucky that we live in a time when there are so many ways to communicate, like FaceTime,” Guay says. “It is definitely a blessing to have [Mahlknecht] here with me. We got so lucky having that familiarity on the court and friendship off the court. It is like having a piece of home here.”
While it’s nice having a long-time friend with her, Guay notes that it was initially hard for her to accept the fact that her favorite foods back home are no longer a quick five-minute drive away.
“The meals [in Germany] consist of a lot of different types of meat and pasta, but I really miss my Mexican food, In-N-Out and frozen yogurt,” Guay said.
Although Germany may not be like home in California, one advantage, according to Mahlknecht, is that their teammates and coaches are all able to communicate with each other.
“The coaches and players speak English, so it has been very helpful because we can connect to each other much better,” Mahlknecht says.
That connection seems to be paying off as the Rurtonik Stars Keltern started the season with a 9-0 record.
For Sharpe, the transition from college student to professional basketball player has been a difficult, yet rewarding experience.
“It has been challenging because I’m thousands of miles away from my family and friends and I can’t just get up and leave anytime I want to see people, hang out, or be with my family,” Sharpe said. “The rewarding part has been winning basketball games and enjoying our fans here in Brasov — they are very supportive and make it worthwhile.
“My days are nowhere as busy as they were when I was in college. I went from having practice, getting treatment, having class and having tutoring, to just having one practice a day, then my day being over.”
While it’s tough to be away from family and friends, all three girls agree that their time in Europe has been a great experience.
“There is a lot of down time which can make you lonely, but [being in Europe] is a growing experience where you have to learn how to be alone and independent,” Guay said. “Although it can be difficult, I am really enjoying my experience overseas. I’m continuing to grow as a young woman.”