Wagener's Spain stay short, sweet S. Carroll grad set for life after basketball

February 26, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

In her four years at the University of Virginia, Melanee Wagener played college basketball at its highest level.

At this time last year, the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the country and preparing for a third straight Final Four appearance.

Wagener, a South Carroll grad and one of the finest high school players to come out of Carroll County, was a steady contributor ** on a Virginia team that boasted All-America guards Dawn Staley and Tammi Reiss, and the highly touted Burge twins -- Heather and Heidi.

The 6-foot-2 forward was looked upon to play solid defense and grab some rebounds for the Cavs, and she did both well.

Any scoring she did was thought of as a bonus. It was a role she had to grow into after being a big scorer and all-around star at South Carroll.

After graduating from Virginia as a communications major, Wagener got an opportunity to play professionally in Spain last summer and signed with a team named Jesuitinas in Segovia.

"It was something I thought about at school and definitely wanted to experience," Wagener said. "My agent said they were looking for someone who could score 35 points a game."

She said Segovia -- the oldest city in Spain -- was beautiful with its historic architecture and that the people were great. But the basketball was frustrating.

"We just didn't have any guards," she said. "It was pretty frustrating after playing with Dawn Staley and Tammi Reiss -- they just saw the entire court so well. I was in a position over there where I was expected to score, but I couldn't get the ball."

Each of the league's nine teams was permitted two foreign players, and the rest of the squad consisted of players from Spain. The other foreigner on Wagener's team was a 6-7 post player, also from the United States.

"Our team just didn't have a lot of money and most of the other players came right out of Segovia," Wagener said.

"We had a tendency to go one-on-four at times, or have four or five straight turnovers. Those were things that just wouldn't happen at Virginia. We even had some 14-year-olds playing."

She averaged around 18 points, while at times only taking 10 shots. The team elected to terminate her one-year contract and she returned home last October. Ironically, Staley replaced her.

As a whole, the experience was worthwhile for Wagener. Basketball kept her pretty busy throughout her stay, but she did have an opportunity to spend a few days in Madrid and see a different way of life.

Now, the 22-year-old is back home in Mount Airy. She's looking for a "people's position" in broadcasting or sales. Last month she got an offer to play in Germany, but she said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

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