After spending four seasons in Russia playing for the EuroLeague’s Spartak Moscow Region, Sonja Petrovic has come to America for the first time and will make her WNBA debut during the 2012 campaign.
Not everything is new for the 23-year-old, however; Sky head coach Pokey Chatman and assistant coach Christie Sides both coach for Spartak during the offseason and have been an instrumental part in Petrovic’s development.
“I was lucky to be on a team where Pokey was the coach for four years already so I guess that makes stuff a little easier because I got to know her, how she likes to play and her style of the game,” Petrovic said.
The Serbian-born forward, hopes the transition from EuroLeague to the WNBA will go as smoothly as possible.
“It will be difficult, of course, because of the style of the game,” she said. “As far as I have seen in practices, the game is a little different. It is faster and more physical.”
To add insult to her currently injured and heavily-taped finger, Petrovic has found herself adjusting to WNBA play after a three-week break between leagues.
“That was one of the longest breaks I’ve ever had,” she said. “My mind wants to do one thing, but my body isn’t responding properly. I think in a couple days or a week, it’ll be better.”
Petrovic hopes to see her first action in Friday’s home opener against Indiana, assuming she’s cleared to play.
Along with her 6-foot-1-inch frame, Petrovic brings a successful resume with the Serbian national team. In 2008, she was named the FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year after leading Serbia to a bronze medal in the U19 World Championships.
A year earlier, Petrovic averaged a double-double with 12.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game during the U18 European Championships en route to a gold medal.
“When you get awards and appreciation for what you do, it only makes you want to work harder and be better,” Petrovic said. “They mean a lot to me.”
While Petrovic tries to adjust to America, Carolyn Swords, a rookie with the Sky last year, has taken Petrovic under her wing and shown her the ins and outs of the WNBA life as well as the city of Chicago.
“Big C (Swords) helps me a lot because she drives me around everywhere and helps me when I need to buy anything,” Petrovic said. “She is really nice.”
Swords’ chauffeuring duties include grocery runs and errands to help Petrovic get settled into her new digs. Fortunately, Petrovic recently set up a new mobile account so she won’t have to incur international charges with each local call.
Both players intend to explore the city when the schedule loosens a bit, with plans to visit the museums, Millennium Park, and perhaps take in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
Petrovic is embracing this strange and exciting new phase in her life and with open arms. It certainly helps that Chicago boasts a large Serbian community to help her feel more welcome.
“I heard there are a lot of Serbians here and you can really get the feeling of home with all the food and exhibitions,” she said.
While Petrovic understandably gets homesick from time to time, she is relishing the opportunity to adjust to life in a foreign land.
“I’m really interested to see how it all works outside of my home country and just to see America for the first time,” she said.