The St. Mary’s University Lightning basketball programs have extended their search for talent beyond the borders of Calgary, way beyond, in fact.

The Lightning women’s basketball team has announced the signing of 6’1” guard Eleni Steriopoulou of Athens Greece, who will be joining the Lightning after playing last season with the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves in the Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) Explorer division.

The addition of Steriopoulou will be a boost to head coach Steve Shoults’ women after losing Abby Gibb to the same UNBC squad after one season with the Lightning.

“Eleni brings experience playing at the CIS level,” said Shoults who was alerted to Steriopoulou’s potential availability by UNBC assistant coach Mark Johnson. “There were many games where she played a significant role in the team’s success.”

“She is also going to act as a calming figure on the floor.”

Overcoming Obstacles

Shoults admits that there are certain challenges when entering a new program and the focus for Steriopoulou will be to get acclimated to new basketball systems, teammates, a new school, and a new city. Though it may seem like a tall-order, Shoults is confident in his new recruit’s abilities to handle the transition.

For Steriopoulou, St. Mary’s represented a perfect fit and a chance to enter an established program with championship aspirations.

“Spending three years in UNBC’s program was an amazing experience for me and I believe that I learned a lot from that journey,” explained Steriopoulou. “But after the season ended I felt that it was time for me to leave, so with the help of my assistant coach at UNBC I got in touch with coach Steve and after that everything worked perfectly.”

“St. Mary’s is one of the best teams in the league and they have high demands for the season, so that made my decision to join them easier. I am really excited to join St. Mary’s University and as a team player I’m willing to bring energy, help my team with scoring from distance and play organized and tough defense.”

It’s Miller Time

The St. Mary’s Lightning Men’s basketball program will also feature a new international recruit in Donovan Miller, a 6’1” guard from Atlanta, GA who suited up for the Providence Pilots of the National Christian College Athletic Association last season.

Having already played a year of Canadian basketball Miller understands the subtle differences of the game on the court, but it is some of the major differences off of the court that lured Miller north.

“The basketball here is a lot more fundamental as opposed to the States where the game is driven by speed and physicality,” said Miller, who will be entering the Bachelor of Arts, Psychology degree program at St. Mary’s. “I looked at (coming to) Canada because it’s a beautiful country with a population that exudes positivity and adventure.”

“I chose St. Mary’s because it is a tight-knit community amongst a nice paced city where there are lot of opportunities and a great diversity of people.”

Mutually Beneficial

Lightning men’s basketball head coach Nathan Ruff believes the addition of Miller is significant, not only for his team this season but also going forward.

“It is a big step to have international players join your roster, especially players from the States like in Donovan’s case,” explained Ruff. “When we can highlight their successes and show to other recruits that they can be successful it can be the start to building a pipeline to these areas and really strengthen the program and helping us to be more successful each year.”

Coach Ruff is looking to Miller’s experience to help bolster the depth on his squad and believes the speedy guard will have a smooth transition into the Lightning line-up.

“Donovan runs the floor so well, he plays quick which suits our style and brings experience and depth to our back court,” said Ruff. “He is also a great defender which is an area we were looking to improve upon going into this season.”

Miller himself also lauds his defensive game, comparing his style of play to that of Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverly.

“I bring more of a Patrick Beverly style of game to the team,” explains Miller. “One where I can rattle other teams with my defense and also facilitate and distribute the ball on the offensive end.”