Former Southern Utah University women’s basketball star Rebecca Cardenas announced she would continue her career in Ireland after signing a professional contract with Ambassador UCC Glanmire.
The reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year announced her signing via Twitter on Friday, Sept. 4.
☘️🖊 How do I look in blue? 🤪… GO BLUE 💙 pic.twitter.com/W3EjSEwjvv
— rc (@pointguardbecs) September 4, 2020
“I’m not stressed or scared, at least right now,” Cardenas told SUU News. “I think going to school [at SUU] helped me realize I’m independent because my parents weren’t there every day…. Taking it to Ireland is the next little baby step toward independence.”
Glanmire is a powerhouse member of the Basketball Ireland SuperLeague, having won seven SuperLeague championships and three Irish National Cups.
Cardenas earned All-Big Sky First Team honors after a stellar 2019-20 campaign when she led the T-Birds to their best record (18-13) since 2013-14.
The El Paso, Texas native finished her Thunderbird career in March after a breakout campaign where she averaged 17.7 PPG and 4.5 APG.
Cardenas reported that Glanmire found and contacted her through her agent, Jeanne McNulty-King of 2X Inc. Her contract will last one year and guarantees Cardenas a spot on the club’s roster.
“I would love to say [when I signed the contract] I was super excited and I was the happiest person in the world, but when they offered me the contract it was still kind of up in the air,” Cardenas said. “If I couldn’t make it out there, I still couldn’t play, so with COVID-19 and all that, that was a big question.”
When SUU’s athletic facilities shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus in March, Cardenas returned to El Paso to train in case of a professional opportunity. Gyms in the area were also closed, so Cardenas returned to her “young days” and started running through shooting drills on a blacktop court near her house.
Cardenas admits that she doesn’t “really know what I’m getting myself into,” but said that she’s “more excited than anything” to head overseas.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for such a long time and putting in the work for it,” she said. “Being a freshman and sophomore, I didn’t think I would have ever been able to sign a professional contract.”
She credits SUU women’s basketball coach Tracy Sanders and her staff in developing the parts of her game that needed improvement in order to continue her career.
Cardenas improved immensely on the offensive end when Sanders took over before the 2018-19 season. The guard averaged 9.8 PPG as a sophomore, and jumped to 11.1 PPG as a junior, when Sanders took over.
Her offensive progress continued as a senior when Cardenas led the Big Sky Conference in scoring, while also dominating the game on the defensive end. Cardenas broke the career steals (301) record at SUU, finished second all-time in assists (494) and landed at fifth on the all-time scoring list with 1,296 points.
Glanmire took note of her progression, and sent Cardenas highlights of former Rutgers University star, and 2019-20 SuperLeague Player of the Year, Shrita Parker to study before making the trip.
“They said I reminded them of her, and they see a lot of potential in my defense,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas joins Parker and former Louisiana State University player Tatum Neubert as the only Americans on the roster. She’s focusing on proving herself to head coach Mark Scannell.
“[Glanmire] has some really talented players, and no spot is just given. In a sense, it is like a training camp. There are new coaches, new teammates you have to impress, so you have to do your part and work hard.”
Cardenas will stay at a hotel that sponsors the team, and has to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Ireland.
UCC Glanmire was in second place last season before games were suspended on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Basketball Ireland has not officially announced when next season will begin, though Women’s Super League usually tips off toward the end of September.
For now, Cardenas continues to focus on improving her game and feels grateful for the opportunity.
“What helps me the most is knowing I’m doing what I love,” she said. “I’m not going to chicken out. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”
Cardenas said that she’ll always remember SUU, which was the lone Division-I school to offer her a scholarship coming out of high school.
“Everyone considers SUU as a smaller school, but if I can do it, anyone else can too if they have a dream,” she said. “I’m going to live it out and see how it goes.”
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz