IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Imagine falling to sleep with fear, afraid that you will be awoken by the sounds of sirens signaling to take cover and running for your life to the closest bomb shelter. Some 6,400 miles away from Iowa City lies the center of political hostilities, religious rivalries and territorial disputes.
It is a world far different from the one in most people experience in the United States, but for former Northern Iowa basketball star Jacqui Kalin, it is a little closer to her. Last year, Kalin chose to play in an Israeli league for nine months. After completing her eligibility as a college athlete, her career was far from over.
It’s a frightening situation to live in, and although Kalin never experienced an attack or the increased hostility, it was shortly after her return to the states that all hell broke loose in Israel.
“It gives me goose bumps just thinking about what going on,” she said. “I am so much closer to it now that I have lived there, and I know so many people over there. It makes me sad.”
Since her return to the U.S., the estimated death toll is 1,830 with the majorities of the fatalities centered in Gaza.
“You always just hope for peace, and I hope that at some point it will calm down over there,” Kalin said. “I hate to see this fighting. I hope it calms down soon.”
Apart from turmoil and chaos, basketball has provided Kalin an opportunity to refine her skills as a basketball player and learn a different language and culture.
Since her return to the Game Time League, a summer league for high school, college and pro players based in Iowa City, her Game Time coach, Randy Larson, has seen a different element of Kalin.
“You can see how tough Jacqui is,” Larson said. “She plays physically and is an aggressive scorer.”
Larson has been able to watch Kalin compete in the Game Time League during her career in Cedar Falls.
“She is such a leader such a competitor, “Larson said. “As a professional, you learn to score every way there is. She can pull up for a jump shot, she can shoot 3-pointers, she just knows how to find the basket and score every way there is.”
Incoming Iowa freshman Carly Mohns, who played alongside Kalin in Game Time, said they worked well together, especially when the team was without star point guard Melissa Dixon.
“All around, Jacqui is a great player and is very encouraging,” Mohns said. “She is able to find the open man, and if there isn’t one, she become the open man. It’s a great quality to have as a player.”
Although her team was unable to walk away with the Game Time championship this season, Kalin is still very respected by her teammates and her competitors.
Kalin plans to return to Israel this fall, hoping to get the same experience, if not a better experience, as she did last year.
“I am going back,” she said. “I signed another contract with a different team but still based in Israel.”