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New Hyde Park’s Lisa Karcic Becomes an Olympian

Former Gladiator star to play for Croatian women’s basketball team in London Olympics.

Like a lot of sports-minded youth who dream about playing shortstop for the New York Yankees, or catching the winning touchdown in a Super Bowl, of New Hyde Park grew up with dreams, too, of the basketball variety.

She dreamed about achieving success in high school. She did that by leading the New Hyde Park Gladiators to the 2004 Class A state championship and earning all-state honors during a prolific prep career.

She dreamed about playing D-1 basketball, accomplishing that feat by playing for the Villanova Wildcats in the Big East, where she competed against national championship caliber teams including UConn.

She dreamed about playing professionally, making that happen in Europe the past few years. For Cajarural in Spain, she was averaging 7.7 points a game during the 2011-2012 season prior to the Olympic break.

But there was one dream she really didn’t think was possible.

“I’ve joked about going to the Olympics in my younger years, never thinking it would actually happen,” Karcic said.

Dreams do come true sometimes.

This week, she will enter Olympic Stadium in as an Olympian, representing Croatia, as a member of its women’s basketball team. Her Croatian-born father immigrated to the United States when he was an adult, thus Karcic has dual citizenship. She will be New Hyde Park’s first female athlete at the games and the second overall as Al Oerter won gold in the discus four times between 1956 and 1968.

Karcic was in her second season playing in Europe when she got an invitation from the Croatian head coach to try out for the Olympic squad.

“This was last summer,” she said in an e-mail interview. “A lot of the girls have been playing national team for many years now and to join the squad was something I knew wasn't going to be handed to me. I went into the whole tryout with an optimistic attitude knowing that whether I made the team or not it was going to be a great experience. Making the team and playing for Croatia is something I’m very proud of and one of my biggest accomplishments to date.

“After earning a bid in qualifications last summer it really hit me like, ‘wow,’ I could be an Olympian come next summer. I was beyond excited for the opportunity because it has been something I’ve always dreamt of being apart of.”

The journey has been joyful on many levels for Karcic, who is getting back to her roots.

“During preparations we stay in pretty sweet locations by the sea,” she said. “Croatia is a beautiful country and this whole experience has brought me closer with my family and Croatian culture.”

Karcic’s Croatian team plays its Olympic opener on July 28 against  — ironically — the heavily-favored U.S.

“It will be strange I’m not going to lie,” Karcic said.

Sometimes, that’s the nature of a dream.

Jason Molinet July 28, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Croatia vs. USA 11:45 a.m. Saturday, NBC-TV

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