Wildcats sign United States college basketball star

American-Puerto Rican Deanna Kuzmanic will lead the Wildcats back-court. Photo: Supplied
American-Puerto Rican Deanna Kuzmanic will lead the Wildcats back-court. Photo: Supplied
The Canterbury Wildcats have bolstered their back-court stocks ahead of the 2020 National Basketball League with the signing of former United States college star Deanna Kuzmanic.

Following the announcement last week that Russian international Marita Davydova is returning to the club, the Wildcats have unveiled American-Puerto Rican player Kuzmanic as their second import signing for the new season.

The 23-year-old guard completed an outstanding four-year career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2019.

During her time playing NCAA division one basketball for the UAB Blazers, Kuzmanic earned Conference USA All-Conference Team honours twice. The four-year starter played 128 career games, the most in the school's history. Kuzmanic finished her career with 1536 points, ranking 11th in the programme’s history. She is ranked third in UAB history in three-point field goal percentage (.377) and three-point field goals made (252).

"My collegiate experience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham was greater than I could have ever asked for and I would not trade it for the world," Kuzmanic said. 

"I have amazing memories with my teammates and coaches, but the highlight of my career was in my junior season when our team won UAB Women’s Basketball’s first ever Conference-USA regular-season title."

With her college career behind her, Kuzmanic is looking forward to furthering her basketball experience in New Zealand.

"This will be my second professional contract since graduating from UAB.

"I played in Puerto Rico’s professional league for the Manati Atenienses in August-October 2019. In that league, I was fortunate enough to be named rookie of the year and our team won the 2019 championship.

"This opportunity came via my agent. He communicated to me that there was a team in New Zealand that was interested in me.

"At that point, I didn’t have much knowledge about the club, but I had heard that New Zealand is a beautiful country filled with the nicest people.

"So initially, the people and the beauty of the country is what intrigued me, but after speaking with coach Dene Robinson and the Wildcats management it was the community service and mentorship programmes that really made me want to be a part of the Canterbury Wildcats.

“As professional athletes, we are given a platform. I want to use my platform to encourage others and positively impact lives, and I believe that is exactly what this team is all about.

“I am thrilled to be a Wildcat and I look forward to competing and working hard on and off the court. I want to play my role to the best of my ability so that I can help put the team in a position to win."

That influence on and off the court comes naturally to Kuzmanic. Last year she was named a Top 30 finalist for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

The award recognises female student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.

“Deanna represents everything UAB athletics stands for,” said UAB women’s basketball coach Randy Norton.

“In her four years with UAB women’s basketball, she served as a role model for her teammates both on and off the court. We are proud of all of her accomplishments in the classroom, community and sport.

“It is a tremendous honour to have her representing our program at the NCAA Woman of the Year Awards. We hope the example she left sets a standard for our athletes for years to come.”

Kuzmanic represented Puerto Rico at both the Pan American Games in 2019, where they took home a bronze medal and also the FIBA Americup. She is looking forward to more international appearances next month.

“I am honoured to represent Puerto Rico and am very excited to represent them in February at the Olympic qualifier in France.

“My mom is Puerto Rican although she was born and raised in the United States. However, both of her parents, my grandma and grandpa, were born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States as young adults.”

Wildcats head coach Dene Robinson said they’re “very happy” to have signed Kuzmanic.

“Deanna brings a very strong shooting, combo guard to the mix but I was particularly pleased to see her averages for assists (4.4apg) and rebounds (5.3rpg) at Alabama were equally impressive."

The 2020 season begins at the end of April. With pre-season training beginning on January 19, the Wildcats are set to make local player announcements in the coming weeks.



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