MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

July 12, 2014

For Fort Gibson ex, this move requires a passport

Slowly, over the course of time, Carissa Crutchfield has drifted away from home.

That current joins with a tidal wave in a few weeks.

From Fort Gibson to Oklahoma State to the University of Arizona, Crutchfield will head to Krasnoyarsky Russia, to begin a pro basketball career. It’s Russia, but smack-dab in the middle of Siberia, 2,500 miles or a five-hour flight from the capital city of Moscow.

And it’s quite the opposite of her last stop. Three months out of the year, the average high temperature there is subzero Fahrenheit. In Tucson, Ariz., the average stays in the 60s. And it’s those months she’ll spend there.

Houston-based 610 Sports Management linked her with the team, Enisey Krasnoyarsk Kraj, which competes in the EuroLeague.

“After school I went to some WNBA combines and afterward they came to me and discussed my future,” she said. “This agency has a history of getting players overseas. The Euro League contacted them and after that (the agent) called me, they offered me and that’s where I’m headed.”

She reports Aug. 18. The season starts in September.

She didn’t reveal the salary, but says it’s good enough for a launch into greater success.

“Rookies won’t make much but Russia and Turkey are two of the highest-paying places to play in Europe so if you’re there, you’re in a good place,” she said.

“I grew used to being away. This is about making a living playing the sport I love and a chance to develop and hopefully get a shot back home in the WNBA.”

Many WNBA players play in Europe as the respective seasons do not overlap.

Crutchfield played in 61 games for the Cowgirls, starting four, during her two seasons in Stillwater and averaged 2.06 points per game. She was a part of a WNIT championship team and also a member of the squad the year of the fateful plane crash that claimed the lives of OSU coach Kurt Budke, and assistant coach, Miranda Serna. Especially close to Serna, the emotional roller coaster that followed led her to transfer to Arizona.

Playing alongside one of the all-time top players in school history in fellow guard Davellyn Whyte, Crutchfield started and played in 29 games as a junior. She averaged 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Then as a senior, she averaged 8.1 points, including a career-high 20 points against Arizona State. She averaged 3.3 rebounds and led the team in assists at 3.1 per outing.

“I had the opportunity of playing against players like Brittney Griner (at Baylor) in the Big 12 and Chiney Owgumike (at Stanford) in the Pac-12,” she said, in reference to two multi-year All-Americans. “Those experiences against two of the best talents in the country really helped me.”

Now comes the climate shift.

“Coaching will change anywhere you go, but all I’ve heard about Krasnoyarsk is how cold it is and how the Russian people have a tremendous amount of pride,” she said. “It’ll be a different experience but I’m looking forward to it.”

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