December 15, 2016 | Posted in ASH Online

Interview with NCAA-player at Miami University Laura Cornelius

By Hanne Nijtmans

Dutch basketball player Laura Cornelius comes from Groningen and has lived here and played basketball in the Netherlands for several years. She has played in the youth Dutch national teams with as one of the highlights that she won a bronze medal with her team in the European Championships (which is quite an accomplishment, considering that the Netherlands are not really big in basketball) and recently played her first game for the Dutch national women’s team. She decided to take her basketball career to the next level and moved to the United States to play college basketball in Miami. Although in the US first year players, or rookies, usually won’t get much minutes to play, Laura did get a chance to shine on the court. This year she is a second-year (or Sophomore) and in this interview she reflects on life as an athlete in the US and the importance of sports in American culture.

Miami guard Laura Cornelius (1) dribbles past South Dakota State guard Chloe Cornemann (22) in the first half of a first-round women's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Miami guard Laura Cornelius (1) dribbles past South Dakota State guard Chloe Cornemann (22) in the first half of a first-round women’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Why did you decide to go play basketball in the US?
Laura: “Because the level here is way higher than the level in the Netherlands, and I can combine basketball here with an education as well.”

What did the university provide for you to be able to play basketball at a level this high? How do you combine classes and basketball?
“Well, I’m here on a full scholarship, which means that all athletic and academic costs are being covered for me. Our class schedules are adapted to our practice times, which is in contrast to the system back home. When I played in Amsterdam, my practice times were adapted to our class times. Combining academics and basketball takes a lot of self-discipline, especially because we often miss classes when we are on the road. The U [Miami University, red.] provides free tutoring and required study hall hours for athletes who struggle, but so far I’m doing pretty well.”

I heard there were quite some sponsors for your team. What kind of sponsors does your team have?
“We indeed have quite some sponsors. Most sponsors are alumni and just individuals or families who just love basketball. They have season tickets and every now and then they donate money to our program. Recently we had a 1 million dollar gift and we upgraded both men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms with that money.”

What is the atmosphere like at the games?
“Great. In general, America has a great passion for sports and especially basketball is so big. I played for 10.000 people once and people on campus just recognize you because you’re on the basketball team. It’s just a complete different world, I never had that in the Netherlands. I love the sports culture here.”

What’s the difference between playing in the Netherlands versus playing in the United States? Is there a difference in attitude?
“The level is way higher. I play in the ACC, the best league in America and the pace of the game is just so quick. Also I play against the best athletes so you really have to bring your A-game every day. I think Americans do show more attitude and emotions, but that also has a lot to do with the passion for the game.”


How is the relationship between the basketball team and the community?
“Good. Multiple times a season we go out to the community and give back to the people who need it the most. We all know and appreciate the fact that we are privileged, but the opportunity to help people in our community is just awesome. We visit elementary schools to help kids with their homework and play a little with them. But we also help giving away Thanksgiving boxes with food for homeless people.”

How important is basketball for Miami University? Are the coach polls and rankings compared to some kind of status symbol?
“Basketball and football are our biggest sports. We get the most attention, money etc. But our programs also make the most profit for the U. Rankings and polls come out every week, but as soon as you lose you’ll drop. Therefore in my opinion, these rankings are a little overrated, but people pay a lot of attention to them. And they do show status. Most of the big schools are ranked, we are currently ranked #16 in the nation.” [They even climbed to 13 now, red.]

A few weeks ago you flew back to France and The Netherlands to play for the Dutch National Women’s team. How was this coordinated?
“We played on Wednesday the 16
th a game with Miami, the day after we flew straight to Paris, had one practice with the team [national women’s team, red.] and we played the 18th a game against France. The next day we flew back to Amsterdam, and we played the 23rd our final game against Estonia and we flew the next day back to Miami to have a game on the 25th. So it was pretty intense to say at least, but it was also a lot of fun.”

What do you like best from playing at Miami?
“I just love our culture and the family we created here. I really see my teammates and coaches as family and this place really feels like a home far away from home.”

Finally, what are your plans after graduating from Miami?
“After I graduate, I would like to play professional basketball, and until my body gives out I will keep on playing. After that there is always time to look for a real job.”

Do you want to know more about the sports culture at the American universities? Make sure you won’t miss the next ASH!