Collinsville's Raven Berry will continue basketball career in Denmark

News-DemocratJune 8, 2013 

— Former Southern Illinois University Edwardsville star Raven Berry is willing to go the extra mile -- actually more than 4,300 miles -- to continue her basketball career in Denmark.

Berry has signed to play women's professional basketball for the Lemvig Basketball Club, located in the small town of Lemvig (population 7,140) on the northeast coast of Denmark.

"I love the game, and for me to have the opportunity to continue to play is a blessing in itself,'' Berry said. "Also, just being able to see another part of the world -- I've been in the Midwest my entire life literally -- and to spread my wings and see something different and bring it back home. That's what I am looking forward to.''

Berry has only been out of the United States once before. She traveled with the Cougars to play in the Bahamas Sunsplash Tournament in Nassau, Bahamas, in December 2011.

Berry said she's still researching Lemvig.

"When I talked to the chairman of the club, he said that the town that my club is in is very family orientated and welcoming to the players,'' Berry said. "The club is growing. He wants players who are family oriented and want to give back to the community. Help the younger ones learn how to play basketball, stuff that I have been doing anyway. I really thought it would be the perfect fit for me.''

Berry attended a training combine during the women's Final Four in New Orleans. Berry's agent, Joe Dinda, helped run the combine.

Berry averaged a double-double -- 14.5 points and 10 rebounds per game -- last season as a senior for the Cougars.

The Collinsville High School graduate is the Cougars' all-time leading rebounder with 1,040 boards.

She's also No. 1 all-time in games played with 118 and second in free throws made with 418 in SIUE history.

"Raven has always dreamed about going overseas and playing professionally,'' SIUE coach Paul Buscher said. "She's worked hard to get this opportunity, and she's done it. She put herself in a position to be able to continue to play. The experiences that she is going to receive are going to be invaluable.''

Buscher, who spent the previous 12 seasons at Bradley University, has had other former players continue their careers overseas.

"You're not going to get rich, but you can make some decent money and have the opportunity to see different cultures and really see the world,'' Buscher said. "That's what I am so excited for Raven about.''

Buscher said the 6-foot-1 Berry's skills should transition well to the European game.

"The physicalness of her post play, and her ability to score and rebound,'' Buscher said. "With the Europeans, it is usually very open, fast-paced. It's very much an offensive type of league. They really try to keep it wide open.''

Berry knows the language barrier -- Danish in the national language of Denmark -- is a hurdle that she'll have to clear.

"I dealt with that for the first time today,'' Berry said. "They sent me my flight information for when I'm leaving. In the email, he said, 'Here's your flight information. I'm guessing you won't be able to read it, but if you have any questions, let me know.'

"I'm looking at my itinerary and I'm like, 'What?' I got a headache looking at it. I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, this is going to be a challenge for me.'''

Fortunately, the email included a link to her itinerary in English.

Berry said she has been told the majority of people in Lemvig area can speak English.

"Having teammates that are from there, they'll be able to help me and teach me a few words so I can have a conversation,'' Berry said.

Lemvig had two American players last year in Emily Hatch of San Diego University and Mallory Moore of Mansfield (Pa.) University.

Hatch will return this fall for her third season. She averaged 18.2 points, 12.4 boards, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game in being named as the All-Danish Dameligaen (highest level of league in Denmark) Player of the Year.

"She's been over there for few years, so she knows the ropes and how things go,'' Berry said. "I haven't had a chance to contact her yet, but I'm hoping to contact her in the next week or so.''

Berry leaves for Denmark on Aug. 14 and she returns on May 7. She also can return home during a two-week vacation in December.

Family means everything to Berry, and she knows she will have to overcome homesickness.

"It's going to be rough,'' Berry said. "I just told everyone that you need to have web cams and download Skype because that is going to be our means of communication for the next nine months.''

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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