Some things are just synonymous with “Indiana:” a greasy pork tenderloin, a hot day at the racetrack, and – of course – the great game of basketball. And, even amid a global pandemic, the legend lived on as Indiana’s own Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team, the Fever, played the 2020 season in Bradenton, Florida.
Getting her first taste of Hoosier basketball this season was Julie Allemand, a starting guard for the Fever. Julie was drafted to the team in 2016 but played overseas in France and her native Belgium until joining the team this year, making her the fourth international player on the Fever’s 2020 roster.
In fact, for a sport considered to be so characteristically American, so Hoosier, basketball has made a big international impact. Since the WNBA’s first season in 1997, nearly 250 players from outside of the United States have played in the WNBA, representing countries from Australia to Uzbekistan. Julie herself has played for multiple international teams, including Lyon ASVEL Féminin and Belgium’s women’s national basketball team, both members of The International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
For Julie, the biggest difference is in style, not geography. “Players are more physical in the WNBA and also incredibly skillful,” Julie says. “I’ve noticed the international game is more of a collective game. Some players overseas aren’t able to just break down a defense and attack one-on-one like what happens in the WNBA because of how teams play certain defenses in the international game.”
Another difference, Julie notices, is in the change of pace and tempo in the game. “When I played in France for the first time as a professional, I really thought we played fast,” she remarked. “But this summer (with the Fever) I saw what it really meant to play at such a fast pace.”
Despite the challenges of navigating a new team, rules and culture, Julie wowed the world this season, making league history as the first rookie to average 8.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds during her first season. She was named to the 2020 WNBA All-Rookie Team and the 2020 Associated Press All-Rookie Team and was the only rookie to start every game in the WNBA season.
Her success in her first year playing basketball in the U.S. can be attributed, in some part, to her experience playing the game overseas. But for Julie, just playing for the Fever is itself an honor. “Playing in the U.S. and reaching the WNBA is a dream, an opportunity and an incredible achievement.”
Back Home Again In Indiana
After her many adventures abroad and across the United States, Julie is looking forward to her first season practicing and playing in Indianapolis. With the WNBA anticipating to begin the 2021 regular season in May, Hoosiers will get to see the unanimous All-Rookie selection bring her talent to Bankers Life Fieldhouse sooner rather than later. “I am so looking forward to hopefully having a normal regular season and getting to know the city better,” Julie says. “Maybe even take one of my walks along the canal!”
By Rebecca VanVliet