Abby Rendle graduated from William & Mary in May. However, her basketball education will continue after signing her first professional contract.
“I’m looking at it as a learning opportunity,” said Rendle, who signed in May with Royal Castors Braine, which plays in Belgium’s Division I League and the Euroleague. “Just being able to learn from players who are coming from the WNBA and players who have played at a professional level.”
Her knowledge of the pro overseas game began with conversations with Sarah Eichler, a former Tribe assistant, and Chelsie Schweers, the Tribe’s director of basketball operations last season. Both have experience playing professionally overseas.
“I talked both of them to get the basic knowledge,” said Rendle, a 6-foot-4 center from Reston. “There are some differences in the rules between here and the European game. From what I’ve seen, how they play is a little different.”
She said for her team, specifically, “it’s a lot of movement, a lot of cutting, which I think suits my game a lot better.”
In her four years at W&M, Rendle’s game centered on her defense. She finished her college career as part of the winningest class in W&M history, and holds school and CAA records for blocked shots in a game (11), season (128) and career (350). She averaged 12.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.3 blocks her senior season, and was named to the all-CAA third team and the conference’s all-defensive squad.
Changing her game
She admits she will have to concentrate more on the offensive end to be a success overseas. In becoming more familiar with Royal Castors Braine, Rendle said she’s expecting to play more facing the basket.
In college, she played mostly with her back to the basket, in a traditional post-up position.
“I’ve been working out with a trainer more on the No. 4 position, getting up extra outside shots, working on my face-up game,” she said.
Misha Jones, getting ready for her senior season with the Tribe, has had a close-up view of Rendle the past three seasons. She thinks Rendle will have no problems adjusting her game on the offensive end.
“She took more mid-range jumpers in her last year here,” Jones said. “It would be really awesome to see how much more of a versatile threat she’d become offensively if that became an increasingly consistent threat in her arsenal.”
W&M coach Ed Swanson said the style her Belgium team plays should help her.
“She’s a pretty good passer for a big person,” he said. “Usually, they’re not great passers.”
He also expects Rendle to make big steps with her offensive game.
“If she goes overseas and gets to spend time on just basketball, and not worry about the academic rigors, I think she can improve a great deal in her time over there,” he said.
Return to Europe
Rendle has to be in Belgium the first week of September, but will be leaving the United States at the end of August to do some traveling before her pro career officially starts. She was born in England, and moved to the States when she was about 3 or 4. She still has a lot of relatives in Europe so she’s looking forward to catching up with them.
“I’ve been back a few times to visit but it’s not the same when you’re 8. You don’t really appreciate it,” she said, adding she still has grandparents, uncles and aunts in England, as well as cousins in Spain. “They’re all really excited. They’re all planning to come out and watch some games.”
But before the season gets underway, she has one more thing to learn: a new language. The main languages in Belgium are French, Danish and German.
“I think the area I’m in is French. I know no French, which is going to be a small issue,” she admitted. “From what I hear they do speak a lot of English. My coach speaks English so I don’t think there will be too much of a problem.”
She has taken a big step already.
“I actual just bought Rosetta Stone to start learning,” she said.
Rendle is at least the sixth former Tribe player to sign a professional contract overseas since 2013, including former center Emily Correal, who also played in Belgium last season.