Team Player: Daria Kryuchkova
When a growth spurt takes you to new heights at six feet three, and your mother played professional basketball in Russia, your sport of choice is pretty obvious, right? Not for Daria Kryuchkova x’14 (KRY-ooch-ko-va). “I loved swimming,” she says. It wasn’t until the age of thirteen, after one of her mom’s former teammates convinced her to take up the game, that Kryuchkova finally hit the hardwood.
“I had pretty good statistics during my high school years,” she recalls. But her first big shot came while working at a hotel in Moscow. “The coaches from Jacksonville College in Texas randomly found my online profile and called me at work to ask if I wanted to come and play for them,” she says.
Even though she was reluctant to leave Moscow (“When you watch Russian movies about the United States,” she says, “it’s all gangsters and stuff”), Kryuchkova went on to play forward at the junior college, averaging 4.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2011–12. She was also a member of the President’s List at Jacksonville, posting a 4.0 grade point average.
Numbers like those caught the eye of Badger head coach Bobbie Kelsey as she was putting together her first recruiting class. The only problem was, Kryuchkova had never heard of UW–Madison, and wasn’t sure about transferring.
“Everyone I mentioned it to told me I had to visit Madison because it’s such a prestigious school,” she says. After that initial visit, she adds, “Something clicked. I felt right at home here.”
There was an adjustment, however, going from playing in Russia and at the junior college level to playing in the Big Ten. “In high school, I was taught just to rebound,” she says. “But here, coach Bobbie is teaching me to be more mobile. I love that the coaches are trying to make me better.”
Published in the Spring 2013 issue