Lisa Karcic has had success playing college basketball for Villanova University in the Big East Conference as well as in professional basketball in Europe, where she is one of the leading scorers in her Finnish league. However, few things in basketball can match the exhilaration she felt in leading the New Hyde Park High School girls basketball team to the Class AAA state championship in 2004.
“To this day winning the state championship has been my most memorable basketball experience,” Karcic said. “Every time I head back to the high school to visit my coach and old teachers I can’t help but re-live those moments as I walk through the halls and gym. I always refer to it as the 'glory days' and it will forever be a time that no matter what mood I’m in will put the biggest smile on my face.”
In Karcic’s amazing high school career, she scored 1,897 points, was twice named Nassau player of the year and was a three-time All-Long Island and three-time All-State selection. She was the state tournament most valuable player when she led the Gladiators to the title. No Nassau Class A team has won a state title since Karcic’s team did it.
She went from being a dominant post player in high school to an outstanding wing player at Villanova, where Karcic led the Wildcats in three-point field goals two years in a row before being sidelined with a knee injury.
Karcic, who majored in finance and marketing at Villanova, said playing overseas has always been an aspiration of hers “since when I first put a ball in my hands.” She grew up watching her sister Tanya play and instantly fell in love with the game. Tanya played college basketball at Cornell.
“Being of Croatian descent and having traveled to Europe with my family a few times made the idea of playing basketball professionally overseas that much more desirable for me,” Lisa Karcic said. “What I like most about being over here is the overall experience. Not too many people get to do what they truly love in life. This opportunity has brought me to places that I would never have envisioned myself going to if it were not for basketball. This is only my second year playing overseas and I have already traveled to six different countries.”
Karcic said the biggest challenge is the disconnect to life in the U.S. The time difference makes it hard to communicate with friends and family back home and she said it can get rather lonely not having a familiar face around.
“Depending where you are it is tough to adjust to the language as well,” she said. “Having teammates who don’t speak English all too well can get frustrating when trying to communicate on the court. However, I’ve been lucky in both my seasons so far with that.”
As accomplished a player as Karcic has been throughout high school, AAU and college, she said she is still “coming into my own” as a player. Her first year she signed with a team in Cyprus, Greece, which she called “a definite learning experience for me.” Karcic was one of the youngest, most inexperienced players on a top team in a top league.
“I never really got the chance to prove my abilities playing with that team and eventually left after Christmas,” she said. “I enjoyed my time there as far as life outside basketball but it really made me re-evaluate if I should continue to play ball or not. I worked hard throughout the summer and was asked to play in Puerto Rico for the end of summer heading into the fall. I came in expecting to be a go-to player and took on that role well.”
Her success there led to the opportunity in Finland. While her team, Kerava Energia, is struggling, Karcic’s individual game is strong. She is averaging 18.8 points and 11.5 rebounds a game, putting her in the top five in the league in both categories. Additionally, she was invited to try out for the Croatian national team in the European championships this summer.
“This has been a dream of mine as well, and words cannot express how excited I am to go about that whole process,” she said.
Fans back home can follow her games through certain websites. The best one, she said, is www.eurobasket.com, which allows users to check out statistics from any league in Europe. Finland has its own website for Finnish games (www.basket.fi.)
One day, when her basketball playing career is over, Karcic can feel good that she has her college degree to fall back on.
"I’ve contemplated a few paths,” she said. “I majored in finance and marketing at Villanova so I would first try to find a job along those lines to see if I still have interest in that field. I also thought about possibly going back to school for nursing if I do not enjoy working in business. Of course, a job related to sports would always be an option just because it has been such a huge part of my life all these years.”
Coaching could also be in the cards. Last spring and summer she started a girls AAU team “and fell in love with it,” she said, adding “so I would definitely try to incorporate that whether a career or just for a side hobby.”