Polish women’s basketball star finds ‘family feels’ as RiverHawk
Standing 6 feet 2 inches tall with wavy sandy blonde hair and a ready smile, UCC transfer student Delfina Misiuna garners attention regularly. On campus, she does this with more than her appearance; her dedication to basketball, school and the people she cares about make her someone to remember.
“Del could be the poster girl for community colleges and for community college athletics,” said UCC girls basketball coach, Dave Stricklin in an email. “She needed an opportunity and an environment to grow and improve herself both academically and athletically and she found both here at UCC.”
The things you do well
“It all happened because of basketball,” said Misiuna with warmth as she explains how she came to be a UCC student.
“For me, I think you can do a lot of things and be average, or you can focus on a couple of things and do those two things really well,” Misiuna said. What two things does Misiuna do well? “Basketball and school,” she decidedly said.
After videos of her playing circulated the internet, the basketball post-player received scholarship offers from colleges in the United States, including Montana. The one she would eventually accept brought her six thousand miles away from her home and family here to Roseburg, Oregon.
Misiuna chose UCC because of coach Stricklin. “We have one of the best junior college teams in the state. Coach Dave has been coaching for 30 years,” Misiuna said. “He’s won over 900 games.”
Misiuna, hailing from Bydgoszcz, Poland, joined the ranks of UCC girls’ basketball December of 2020 after first taking a term completely online in the fall. She had to navigate her classes and schedule with a nine-hour difference, in a language she is still working to master.
Goodbye Poland, hello Roseburg
When the now-sophomore first arrived in Roseburg, she had never been to the United States. Growing up in Europe she had visited many other countries, but never the U.S. and never by herself. So, when she finally made the move, it was a challenging unfamiliar experience.
As international flights often go, there was cancellations, delays, and reroutes for Misiuna. Her original route from Poland, to Amsterdam, to Seattle was canceled and she was rerouted to Atlanta, Georgia.
After a day of frustrating travel, Atlanta was a lot to take in. “It was the biggest airport I had ever seen,” Misiuna said. She was awed.
As the flights wore on, she was increasingly tired and confused. She finally arrived to Eugene airport at midnight, nearly 40 hours later, only to discover her luggage was lost.
Coach Stricklen was at the airport waiting for her, but it was so late most airport staff were gone when the pair eventually learned her luggage was now in Seattle. So, after the longest flights of her life, entering a totally new country, she had none of her belongings. Fortunately, she already had a team and a coach who pulled together to provide their new member with necessities like pajamas, extra clothes, and toiletries while she waited for the luggage to be delivered.
“It was the not the easiest day,” Misiuna said in reflection. “But I think it made me not scared of difficult situations.”
Finding family in friends
Being the middle sister of five children and a single mother, family has been an integral part of Misiuna’s life. She regularly calls her younger brother and sister and does miss them, yet Misiuna explains she is not homesick. “Honestly, I am too busy to be homesick. Also, the environment here, the bond, well, we are all like family,” Misiuna said. “Coach Dave and his wife Linda make sure we are taken care of.”
Misiuna often refers to many of her teammates as family as well as her friends and her volunteer coaching assistants Perry and Vicky Murray. “Coach Dave is like the head of the family, “said Misiuna. “He really wants us to be close. And honestly, it makes us better on the court.”
Misiuna herself also takes an active role as a comrade, big sister and sometimes math tutor to her teammates and friends.
“I am really good friends with most of my teammates, but even if they weren’t my friends, we are still family,” Misiuna said.
Sophomore Kristen Thomas is one of Misiuna’s best friends at UCC. “The thing I love most about Delfina is that she is always lightening up the mood by making those around her laugh and she is a friend to everyone,” said Thomas in an email. “It doesn’t matter who you are, Del will make sure you feel welcome and included. Del and I became friends right when we first met each other, and I am thankful for that.”
Misiuna explains her empathetic approach, “We don’t have a lot of girls from around here, in Douglas County. We are all far away from family, so we have to be each other’s support.”
Always a Riverhawk
Despite being a very busy athlete, Misiuna does not let her academics slip, maintaining over a 3.5 GPA. Math and science are her strengths, which is why she intends to study sport analytics. She hopes to work with professional athletes to analyze performance.
“I like that it’s math and science combined. I’ve always liked math; I just get it pretty easily,” Misiuna said.
Now after almost three years of UCC, Misiuna reflects on the next step. She knows she would like to stay in the states when choosing her transfer school but admits leaving the strong support she receives at UCC will be hard.
“The thing I’m most amazed about this school is the level of support you get here. Everyone is here for you and puts you as a priority,” Misiuna said.
From time spent eating candy in the office of administrative assistant, Rhonda Stearns, to celebrating Thanksgiving dinner at the Stricklin home, or going to family festivities of teammate and best friend Jalen Robles, Misiuna knows she will miss her experience here.
“On our team we have this saying, once a RiverHawk, always a RiverHawk, and I feel that is true,” Misiuna said.
Misiuna values what she has learned during her years here and admits, “I am happy with who I became.”
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