Winona grad Nibbelink goes pro in Germany

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Eden Nibbelink (right) played in the Winhawks’ state championship game in 2017. This spring, she signed with a professional basketball team in Germany.

Winona Senior High School (WSHS) alum Eden Nibbelink journeyed halfway across the country to play basketball in college. Now, she will move all the way to Germany to play professionally. 

Nibbelink will play with ASC Basketball in Mainz, Germany, and the season will go from this September to about next March or April. 

Nibbelink is looking forward to meeting many new people. “You can only have two Americans on the team at a time, so you’re going to get a really diverse group of girls,” she said. She is also excited to learn from her teammates and experience different styles of play. 

For Nibbelink’s former coaches at WSHS, this step in her career was thrilling. “She’s just a great person, and I’m so happy this has happened for her, and I think she’ll do a great job over there,” Kevin Martin said.  

“I’m just really proud of her, and to see her continue to grow and be able to chase something that she’s passionate about,” Tim Gleason said. 

While playing professionally, Nibbelink will have the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and learn about the region. “I’ve never even left the country before, so that’s exciting on its own,” she said.

As Nibbelink anticipates those new adventures, she is also remaining aware of some of the challenges that could come from playing at a high level in a new country. Not knowing German, adapting to different styles of play and feeling the pressure to do well every game could be more challenging parts of joining the team, Nibbelink said. “They offer you a contract, needing you to come in and perform, and if you don’t do that, then why are you there in the first place?,” she said. “I feel that pressure could be somewhat daunting, but I think it’s something I’ll still be able to handle.” 

Joining the team took time, as well. To play professionally, Nibbelink chose a sports agent. The agent then contacted different teams. Ultimately, leaders for the German team said they would like to speak with Nibbelink, and when the conversation went well, she decided to sign a contract with them. “I was extremely excited,” she said. 

Nibbelink rooted her decision to pursue playing basketball professionally in her positive experiences with collegiate teams. Nibbelink said she had a very successful game at the end of her college career that motivated her to keep going with the sport. “I realized I don’t want to be done. This game has taken me so far, and I think I could go even further with it,” she said. She decided to attend Fairfield University in Connecticut after colleges recruited her. She played there for four years, then transferred to Central Connecticut State University, where she was on the team for her final season this year. Both are NCAA Division I programs.

Playing on a collegiate team meant games were very up tempo, Nibbelink said. Knowing more than one role and executing all those roles well was important, she said, to not be bumped out of one’s spot. 

College entailed taking classes, as well. When in college, Nibbelink kept up with her courses, daily practices and community service. “I think I’m a pretty organized person, so I was able to figure it out where I could balance my basketball and school pretty well, but in general, it’s pretty hard, and there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” she said. As an undergraduate student, she studied marketing. She will graduate in June with a Master’s in Business Administration. 

Relocating to Connecticut was an adventure in and of itself for Nibbelink, who lived in Winona her whole life until that point. “Being that far away from home at first, moving out and not knowing anybody, and then gradually being able to meet all these amazing people and playing basketball while I’m doing it, I think the most memorable thing I’ll take from five years of Division I basketball is the people and teammates,” she said. 

The decision to play in college went even further back, to Nibbelink enjoying her time on teams in Winona. Making it to the state championship two years in a row was was one of the most memorable parts of playing at WSHS for Nibbelink. “It felt like the entire town of Winona was there in the stands,” she said. She added, “I’ll never forget that.” She also appreciated her time with teammates. “Everybody was really athletic and talented, so I was really fortunate to be able to play with such a good group of girls,” Nibbelink said. 

Nibbelink’s coaches agreed that they enjoyed her time with the team, too. “I appreciated the hard work she had, the determination she showed toward basketball,” Martin said. “She was always working hard to improve her game.”  

“She was obviously very talented,” Gleason said. “She worked very hard at her craft, and to develop a very unique skill set.” He added, “She was just a very unique player with a wonderful skill set, and was a joy to coach.” 

Education@winonapost.com