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    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    NL’s Pagan headed to World Cup in Australia, then pro team in Germany

    China's Han Xu, right, drives on Puerto Rico's India Pagan, the former New London High School star, during a women's basketball preliminary-round game at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Saitama, Japan, on July 27, 2021. Pagan will compete later this month in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, before reporting to play professionally for BC Pharmaserv Marburg in Germany. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)
    Former New London High School girls' basketball star India Pagan competed in Tokyo as a member of the Puerto Rican Olympic women's basketball team. Pagan, 23, has signed a professional contract to play for BC Pharmaserv Marburg in Germany beginning in October. (Photo courtesy of the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation)
    New London's India Pagan poses with a set of Olympic rings in Tokyo, site of the 2020 Summer Olympics. (Photo courtesy of India Pagan)

    Somehow India Pagan keeps finding more firsts.

    Pagan is already a New London High School/Stony Brook University grad with the 2017 Class LL state girls’ basketball championship, a master’s degree in coaching, an NCAA tournament appearance and a berth at the Tokyo Olympics as a member of the Puerto Rican women’s basketball team to her credit.

    Now, there’s more:

    A gold medal, a trip to Australia and a professional contract after Pagan signed recently to play for the BC Pharmaserv Marburg Blue Dolphins in Germany beginning with the season-opener Oct. 14.

    “It’s always been my dream to play overseas, to call myself a professional basketball player and get paid to do what I love,” the 23-year-old Pagan said in a telephone interview this week from Puerto Rico, where she is practicing with the national team (more on that in a moment).

    “Every time I think, ’What else can I do?’ there’s a new experience, a new blessing. This new experience overseas, I’ll be able to get an opportunity.”

    Pagan is currently preparing for Puerto Rico’s participation in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, taking place from Sept. 22-Oct. 1 in Sydney, Australia.

    The Puerto Rican team earned a World Cup bid after FIBA disqualified Russia from the tournament as a result of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. That paved the way for Pagan’s first World Cup — Puerto Rico’s first World Cup appearance in 2018 conflicted with her time at Stony Brook — and her first trip to Australia.

    Because the trip to the World Cup came somewhat unexpectedly, the team is in the selection process, with Pagan now one of the veteran players instead of the youngest.

    She’ll make a quick trip back to New London between the close of the World Cup and the start of her season in Germany if only to repack, she said, going from summer in the Caribbean to the winter season in Europe.

    Pagan competed at a combine in Minneapolis following the Women’s Final Four in April, which ultimately led to her finding an agent and signing professionally.

    “I did actually (play well at the combine),” Pagan said. “A bunch of coaches that were there were like ’You’re playing really good.’ I felt really good. I had four or five agents call me. ... I was nervous. You wouldn’t think after all I’ve been through I’d be nervous, but I was nervous. I’ve never been to a combine.”

    With some help from Stony Brook coach Ashley Langford to wade through the process, Pagan signed with agent Stephanie Stanley of Merit Management Group in New Rochelle, New York.

    Stanley connected Pagan to three different teams, one being the Blue Dolphins from Marburg, who compete in the 11-team Damen Basketball Bundesliga (DBBL).

    “I FaceTimed the coach. It was a good fit. They sent me a contract and I signed it,” said Pagan, a 6-foot-1 forward who finished with 1,418 career points and 729 rebounds at Stony Brook and is second all-time in Seawolves’ history in field goal percentage.

    “There’s no beaches there so I’m taking advantage of Puerto Rico while I can.”

    Earlier this summer, Pagan won a gold medal as part of Puerto Rico’s 3x3 women’s team at the Caribbean Games in Guadeloupe. The 3x3 game, which was new to Pagan, is played halfcourt with one basket, with games lasting 10 minutes.

    Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic 16-7 in the championship game.

    “The fans were really, really loud,” said Pagan, whose parents Moises and Carmen are both natives of Puerto Rico, allowing her to play for the island nation. “The court is smaller and it’s outside so the fans have horns and they’re making a lot of noise. We came out with the win. It was another thing I had not planned but it was a blessing in disguise because I’ve never gotten gold before.

    “I didn’t have any plans for Puerto Rico this summer. I thought I was getting the summer off. And God said, ’Psych!”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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