Small in stature, huge in heart

How did Natalie Hudec meet her first basketball?

Well as we all know, Medicine Hat is not quite a metropolis. The junior high team needed people and even though she was only in grade five, they took her on the team. First as the water girl, then as a player.

"I loved it right away and kept going," she says.

Hudec chose basketball over her other sport at that time-hockey- and then started off to conquer Alberta basketball. That Hudec had to invest a lot of time and make a lot of sacrifices was never a problem.

"I love being competitive and I really love the Dinos team," she says. "There are so many amazing things coming out of basketball. You have 12 best friends on the team and you get to see amazing places because you travel a lot."

Thanks to basketball, the fifth-year Dino has been to Switzerland, Slovakia, the U.S. and travelled from coast to coast in Canada. After playing for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns for two seasons–where she was awarded Canada West All Star honours in her last season–she transferred to the University of Calgary. Here she had her best year when the team won the bronze medal at nationals in 2000. She joined the Christian organization "Athletes in Action," which helps athletes integrate faith and sport. She got her first basketball experiences in Europe through the organization and after finishing her studies in Kinesiology this semester, Hudec looks forward to going back-only this time, professionally.

"My heart is set on going to Europe and playing some more basketball," she says. Playing overseas may be one of her goals but, she admits if the National Team knocked on the door, plans could change.

Her love for sports may not be genetic, but her parents have always supported her decisions and made it possible for her to play basketball instead of working.

"I have a twin sister who is an artist with not a single athletic bone in her body," she says. "But, my family is awesome. They went through thick and thin with me."

"Natalie took on vertical challenges," explains Head Coach Shawnee Harle of the diminuitive guard. "She proved that she is good at the sport she loves."

If Hudec doesn’t go for her dream of running her own restaurant, she might decide to switch from the field to the sidelines.

"I would really enjoy coaching, because you get to be around the game all the time, have a team and travel places," she says.

For now though, the only thing really on her mind is playing. She is concentrating on her next big step. A step that will take her a world away from the Hat and into the bright lights and big crowds of pro basketball.

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