Gameday+ | Meet a Buckeye: Dorka Juhasz, women’s basketball

Ray Stein The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeye Dorka Juhász poses for a portrait at Value City Arena in Columbus on December 27, 2018. [Samantha Madar/Dispatch]

Dorka Juhasz

Sport: Women’s basketball

Age: 19

Year: Freshman

Hometown: Pecs, Hungary

Major: Psychology

Question: My Google search tells me that 4,762 miles separate Columbus, Ohio, from Pecs, Hungary; now that you’re one semester in, does it seem shorter than that or longer?

Answer: It definitely feels shorter than in the beginning of the semester, especially because I was able to go home for Christmas. It gave me energy for next semester.

Q: How many times had you been to the United States before you arrived for classes?

A: Only once. Last January when I took my official visits was my first time in the U.S. June was the first time I had to travel alone without my family.

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Q: Can you briefly explain what your options were before you chose college?

A: I had two options. The first was to stay in Europe and play for a professional team. The second was to come to the United States, continue my studies abroad and get a degree while developing as a player in the next four years.

Q: What ultimately made you decide to go the college route?

A: To be honest, it wasn’t an easy decision. Lots of European players become professionals to make money. The downside of becoming a pro at a young age is that it’s hard to attend a university while playing basketball as a full-time job. I didn’t want to just play basketball, I wanted to prepare for life after basketball, and it starts with an education and getting a degree. There is always a risk to have an unexpected serious injury so I need to keep my feet on the ground.

Q: How many other European women have chosen college basketball over a professional team?

A: Every year there are more and more talented young players from Europe who choose college basketball over a professional team. It’s important that players have the opportunity to be successful on the court and in the classroom. In Europe it’s not typical that professional teams work with universities to have a balanced schedule, where players can attend the school and practices.

Q: I’ve learned that Pecs is in southern Hungary, near Croatia, and that its English pronunciation is roughly Peas. What else should people know about Pecs?

A: Pecs is the fifth largest city in Hungary. It’s famous for its beautiful squares, ancient monuments and it’s the home of the Zsolnay ceramics. The city is also a university town, because many foreign and Hungarian students attend the University of Pecs. Pecs was always a huge basketball city.

Q: Besides your family, what do you miss most about Hungary?

A: I really miss traditional Hungarian food; some days I crave for a hot cup of goulash soup. My mom and grandmother taught me how to cook some Hungarian meals, but nothing beats my grandmother’s goulash recipe.

Q: What else can you tell us about your family?

A: I have an older brother Gergely, who is 22 and is studying computer engineering in Budapest. My mother, Hajnalka Balazs, was a famous basketball player in Europe. She played for the Hungarian national team and won several titles with her professional team. She has always been my role model in basketball and in life. My father, Zsolt Juhasz, is a well-known pediatric surgeon. He also played basketball, but he chose to help others and save lives, and that’s why he is a role model, too.

Q: From whom did you inherit your 6-foot-4 frame?

A: Both my mom and dad are tall. My brother and all of my cousins are taller than me. The Juhász family would make a really good basketball team.

Q: How did your family feel about you coming to Ohio?

A: My family was really positive about Ohio State. When we were here for the visit they could see I would be at a great place surrounded by great people. The idea of living thousands of miles away was not pleasant for any of us, but they want to see me happy and were very supportive. It was and is a challenge to live far away from each other, but we talk every day and they were able to visit me in November.

Q: What has been the biggest culture shock about Columbus and/or the university?

A: I wasn’t shocked about anything so far. The only strange thing that I saw was a couple of people walking on campus wearing shorts and slippers in December, when it was freezing outside. I didn’t understand how they could do that.

Q: Has it been easy or hard to adapt to the language?

A: It was easier than I thought it would be. I have been learning English for more than 10 years, and I watched lots of English movies to help improve my vocabulary. Studying can be challenging sometimes, but all in all communication and studying have been going smoothly.

Q: Are you dealing with American food?

A: In the beginning it was hard to figure out what to eat and what not to eat. Luckily I am working with a really good nutritionist, and it got easier. The food is very different, but I am not a picky eater so I am trying different American food. Although, I still miss Hungarian food.

Q: I’m told that you are a big fan of Netflix. What sort of shows do you watch?

A: I wasn’t a big fan in Hungary, but when I came here everybody was watching it and I guess I followed their examples. I am a big fan of “Scandal,” “Stranger Things,” “Gossip Girl,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Office.” I could list more, but that would be a long list.

Q: Are you enjoying your schoolwork? How did your first semester go in the classroom?

A: I really enjoy being a student-athlete at Ohio State. My first semester went well, but it was challenging because everything was new and it was the first time studying everything in a foreign language. Fortunately I got lots of help from tutors, mentors and professors.

Q: Your roommates are a basketball teammate from Rhode Island (Janai Crooms) and a volleyball player from Serbia (Vanja Bukilic); how have they helped make your transition easier?

A: Actually, only Janai is my roommate, but Vanja lives in the same dorm. Janai helps me not to feel homesick, and we basically spend all day together. I met Vanja in the first day of school and we built a good relationship. It’s good to have a European student-athlete for a friend, because we are facing the same challenges and we can help each other. Both of them play a big role in helping me enjoy my time here and feel that I am not alone.

Q: It doesn’t take a long scroll through your Twitter feed to see that you are a big fan of Luka Doncic and LeBron James; how long have you known about Doncic?

A: I have been following his career since we met each other a few years ago when he played with the Real Madrid youth team at a tournament in Hungary. I had a national team camp there and we played in the same gym. I knew he would be special; he scored 40 points every game, and nobody could stop him. For my 18th birthday last year he sent me a signed jersey. He is not only a great talent, but he is a nice person, too.

Q: Is he your favorite player, or is James the standard by which all others are measured?

A: LeBron James is definitely my favorite player. I love his versatility and power and energy that he brings. He is a role model for millions of basketball players. And let’s not forget his connection to Ohio State. He is always rocking with his Ohio State Buckeyes and supports OSU football.

Q: In this wireless world, is it easy to follow the NBA from eastern Europe?

A: It’s not that hard to follow the NBA from Europe because TV channels stream the games. The hard thing is that the games are always around 2 or 3 a.m. because of the six-hour time difference. In season, I could not really follow the games because of that, but I never miss the playoffs.

Q: Should I assume you have been introduced to American football? How do you feel about it?

A: I feel so great! In Europe soccer is the most famous sport, and I hadn’t seen many American football games. I fell in love with the sport at my first OSU game. The fans are amazing, the atmosphere was special and the team is talented and fun to watch. I am looking forward to watching lots of games in the next three years.

Q: If you called your family at home today and said “O-H” into the phone, how would they answer?

A: Is it really a question? As part of the Buckeye family, they definitely would say I-O. Wait, that’s not true: They would shout I-O as loud as they can.