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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Melia honored amidst intercontinental transition

Melia captained Ireland to their first ever Division A promotion with a silver medal at the U-18 European Championships. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/ THE HAWK

In her first week of North American collegiate basketball, Claire Melia was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week.

The native of Monasterevin, Ireland currently leads the Hawks in both points and rebounds. Her college debut saw a 23 point performance against Colombia University, and followed that up with a 17 point, nine rebound outing in a Big 5 matchup against Temple University.

“It didn’t necessarily surprise me because we knew she was going to do her thing and do well, but [leading the team in points], that’s amazing,” said Sarah Fairbanks ’16, director of women’s basketball operations.

Melia was already acquainted with Fairbanks prior to her joining of the Hawks. Fairbanks, who played professionally in Ireland, squared off with Melia in Ireland’s Super League, the country’s highest professional league.

“She was tough, very tough,” Fairbanks said. “Her team was tough, and that’s exactly the way she plays. She was only 16 or 17 at the time, but you can tell she’s played with older people earlier than some of us have growing up here in America.”

Melia said playing at a high level in Ireland against American talent, like Fairbanks, helped her hit the ground running when she arrived at St. Joe’s.

“It’s different than in Ireland,” Melia said. “It’s more physical and obviously there’s a lot more talent here. But I’ve played against Americans when they come to Ireland to play, so at least there’s some experience there.”

Melia said the transition hasn’t come without any some major adjustments however. There was no basketball court in Melia’s town growing up, and she hadn’t lifted until she arrived on Hawk Hill.

“To be training for three hours each day is a big change,” Melia said. “Having a practice gym and the lifting and training facilities, it’s all helped me make that transition.”

Another aspect that has helped ease Melia’s switch to American basketball is her teammate, Lula Roig, who also came to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean from Spain prior to her freshman year of college.

“We definitely do [have a connection],” Roig said. “One day she came to me and said ‘I love playing with you’ and I said ‘I love playing with you too’. It’s great.”

Roig agreed that the physicality of the American game is one of the most important aspects of the game to get used to when coming from Europe. However, both Roig and Fairbanks pointed to one intangible that is immediately evident when watching Melia play.

“She is very smart with the ball and she brings composure,” Roig said. “You know when you give her the ball you can trust her.”

Fairbanks noticed the same poise.

“She’s brought a certain composure, and a certain calmness,” Fairbanks said. “That kind of upperclassmen mentality is good for us because we are so young.”

Despite the composure Melia shows in game, Roig knows how difficult it can be to come to a new country and adapt.

“At the beginning it can be hard [to make the transition],” Roig said. “But once the season starts it gets so much better. I tell her whenever she wants, she has me. I’ve been through the same process, but I think she’s doing really good right now.”

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