Maryland women's basketball guard Eleanna Christinaki had a big choice to make this summer: return home to play for her native country of Greece and turn pro, or continue to play as a Terp for her senior season.
The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup games take place from September 22 to 30. Then, Greece is scheduled to play two FIBA EuroBasket 2019 games in November — during the college season.
The Athens native eventually decided to end her Maryland career, play for the Greek national team and then pursue professional opportunities in Europe.
"Representing your country is a big honor," Christinaki said. She said she likes the experience of playing with — and learning from — the much older players on the team.
"It's great because [at] all these tournaments that I've been [to] I play against great players. The Greek National Team, my teammates are very old…they have played for many years, they have so much experience," Christinaki said.
Christinaki played for Greece in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament last summer. The team reached the semifinals before a 77-55 loss to France. Playing at small forward, Christinaki averaged 4.5 points and one rebound in the tournament.
She insisted the choice had nothing to do with her experience at Maryland, which lasted for one up-and-down season.
"I have a very good relationship with everybody, but I was going back and forth with my national team. … My family is closer if I go play in Europe," Christinaki said. "I gained so much experience and taught myself a lot [at Maryland]. I grew up as a person and as a player. I have only good things to say."
As a sophomore at Florida, where she started her collegiate career, she averaged 17.6 points as the leading scorer on the team, but left the program in December 2016 after facing a suspension for behavior issues. Christinaki declined to comment on her time at Florida.
She transferred to Maryland and became eligible to play in December 2017. In 22 games, she averaged 11.8 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Terps.
"We are excited for Eleanna that she will be living out her dream to become a pro," coach Brenda Frese said in a press release. "We appreciate all that she has meant to our team and program. We wish her all the best."
Christinaki hasn't signed with any professional teams yet and wouldn't give any details on her plans, but expressed her gratitude for her time at Maryland.
"The opportunity I'm turning pro is because I played for Maryland," Christinaki said. "So I'm very thankful for all of them."