Jessica Koch playing for Haskovo in Bulgaria

By Christian Mengel

October 11, 2012

[caption id="attachment_12694" align="alignnone" width="300"] (Left) Jessica Koch is all-time leading scorer for Missouri Western Women's Basketball with 1,776 points. (Above) Koch (far left) poses with her team, Haskovo 2012, in Haskovo, Bulgaria.[/caption] Jessica Koch, arguably the greatest female athlete to every play for Missouri Western, is going to the pros. Koch will start her rookie season for Haskovo 2012 in Haskovo, Bulgaria, a team belonging to the Bulgarian National Basketball League. Making a career out of playing a sport professionally is one of the most difficult things for a person to accomplish in a lifetime. It’s hard enough making it in football or baseball, sports that have huge rosters and big drafts and multiple leagues. Basketball is a little more limited. A typical team will have about 12-15 players, and for the league in Bulgarian NBL there are only seven teams. Koch was just waiting for an opportunity like this to come up. Her only chance at playing at the next level was in the hands of her agent. After a summer of waiting, she got the call of a lifetime. “When I got the call that they were interested, it was a very numbing feeling and a million things went through my head,” Koch said. “I still wake up every day and am amazed that I’m doing this for a living. It’s truly a blessing and I’m not sure I’ll ever really grasp it.” She is one of three Americans on the team, and the only one to come from the Division II level. After her historic collegiate career, it was only a matter of time before somebody out there realized that they could use her talent. Koch found her way in the record books in pretty much every major category; with 1,776 total points, she is the all-time leading scorer at Western; she has made more free throws and grabbed more steals than any other player; she is the second all time in three-pointers made, rebounds and assists; and third on the all time list for most blocks. Despite being the face of the sport at a school for four years, she says it will take time to adjust to the European style of play. Unlike in America where players rely on size and power to be good, European players tend to be much more quick and crafty, Koch said. Style of play is just one of the changes she will need to adapt to. Obviously communication is important in every sport, and communication can be difficult when there is a language barrier. Bulgarian isn’t exactly a common second language for Americans. Luckily for Koch, she said has some teammates who speak very good English and two fellow Americans to help her out. Unfortunately, the coach is not bilingual. Koch relies on a translator when the coach has something to say. If you know basketball, you know coaches always have something to say. After playing the same game with the same rules, she will have to learn a set of new ones. Her mentality will have to change when it comes to timeouts. In Bulgaria, only the coach can call them. When a player is trapped, no one can call timeouts. Koch has been a team leader for everyone she has ever played for. By being smart, tough and dedicated she has always been recognized as the best player on the court. She will be working just as hard as always to continue playing at the professional level. To keep up with Koch's experiences in Bulgaria, read her blog "Bulgaria Bound" at www.jessicakoch24.blogspot.com/.