For a point guard, Sigi Koizar has showed an alarming lack of decisiveness at times. It’s a wonder she ever ended up playing at the University of Maine.

When the Austrian was assigned a host family in Millinocket for a foreign-exchange program, she vacillated about the opportunity, wondering if she would be good enough to play high school basketball in the U.S.

When the Black Bears later offered her a scholarship to return to Maine as a Division I college player, she waited until June to accept.

Last season, as a freshman, Koizar averaged 4.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists, primarily coming off the bench. The 5-foot-8 guard was clearly a terrific athlete, but her confidence seemed to ebb and flow, and she often passed up open shots to make passes, resulting in 56 turnovers.

“I kind of pushed off the responsibility on the court, like really I was playing more passively in the second half (of the season),” she said.

But after success in an offseason European tournament, Koizar brims with confidence. She may hold a key to how far Maine advances when its season opens Friday at Bryant.


“The goal for this year is just let it go, just play, have fun with it,” Koizar said. “If you mess up, you mess up, there’s nothing to do about it. That’s just a mindset you need sometimes.”

Koizar grew up in a small town south of Vienna, where basketball takes a backseat to sports like soccer and handball. When she was 9, she tagged along to an older cousin’s game and started shooting around during timeouts. Soon her father took her to a practice with a local boys’ team, since there weren’t enough girls’ youth squads. Sigi was a natural, and eventually stopped playing soccer and running track to focus on basketball.

By age 14 she was chosen to play for the Austrian national team. She remains on the team.

As a high school junior, she was ready to experience life in another country and decided on America. Given the option of a rural area or bigger city, she chose rural and was assigned to Stearns High in Millinocket. She fell in love with the natural beauty of Maine, bonded with her host family and decided to dabble in basketball, anticipating a much higher level of play here.

She found that, but also averaged 23.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.2 steals as Stearns reached the Eastern Class C final. She was amazed to discover that people paid to attend basketball games in America, literally a foreign concept to her.

“We would play in front of some parents and maybe some grandparents, about 10 people total,” she said of basketball in Austria. “I remember one game we didn’t have enough parents to staff the scorer’s table, so the coach had to do it.”


Among those who noticed Koizar at Stearns was Richard Barron, then in his second season as Maine coach. He got word there was an exchange student playing nearby who was pretty good. His first impression: “It was obvious she was the best player on the floor but it wasn’t clear how good she was. She was a very, very unselfish player with her teammates. But I wasn’t sure.”

Koizar returned to Vienna, where her family had moved, to finish high school. Barron kept tabs on her and eventually offered her a spot on a Black Bears team that has a European flavor (the roster includes six others from that continent).

Koizar had never thought about playing Division I basketball in America. No other schools were recruiting her. A very accomplished student, Koizar was pondering attending a university near home and becoming a doctor someday.

Finally she decided to come to Orono last June. She is studying biology and the career in medicine remains a possibility.

But a life dedicated to basketball is gaining momentum.

After a promising but uneven first season as the Black Bears went 17-15 last year, Koizar returned to Austria and had a breakthrough. As the point guard for the senior national team, with players of all ages, she was superb in the European Championships for Small Countries. She had 32 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a final-game win over Iceland.


“Sigrid Koizar is one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen in Austria,” gushed her coach, Mike Kress.

Koizar, who turned 19 last month, returned to Maine a changed player. Barron senses it. Her teammates see it, too.

She is a pacesetter in her homeland, one of only three Austrians playing Division I in America (the other two are freshmen, at Stetson and Houston Baptist).

And she’s hoping to kickstart a strong season for a deep Maine team that could benefit from an aggressive penetrator, which Koizar can be. The Black Bears run a “5 out” offense intent on spreading the floor with shooters. If Koizar, deceptively quick, can force defenses to collapse, she’ll have plenty of options for passes to the perimeter. If they don’t collapse, she’s showing an increased determination to shoot it herself.

Maine throttled two overmatched Canadian teams in exhibition games this month. Koizar totaled 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

“She has abilities to score that are almost unmatched in America East, like the unique ability to get to the basket. She’s really hard to guard and she’s really smart,” Maine forward Liz Wood said. “She’s very calm on the floor and I think she’s going to blow America East away, honestly. They’re not ready for Sigi.”

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