On December 30, 2014, former Yale women’s basketball captain Sarah Halejian ’15 suffered what appeared to be a career-ending injury when she tore her left ACL. But just 18 months later, in June of this year, the revitalized guard signed on to play professionally in Switzerland with the BC Winterthur women’s basketball team.
Halejian’s year-long contract with Winterthur, which is located just north of Zürich, figures to boost a squad that finished 3–18 last season and seventh out of eight teams in the women’s division of the country’s premier national basketball league. For Halejian, this new chapter comes after one year in Scotland, where she played for the University of Edinburgh as part of a program that offered her a scholarship to complete a masters of science in sports policy, management and international development while playing for the team.
“After my injury, I did not want to end on a negative note,” Halejian said. “Since I had the goal of playing professionally, I used that as my motivation to rehab and get back in shape again.”
Former Yale women’s basketball coach Chris Gobrecht said that Halejian’s move to study and play at Edinburgh made sense, as it allowed her to return to peak form after the injury. She added that Halejian’s passion for the game made it clear that playing professionally was in her future.
Yale assistant coach Melissa D’Amico said she served as a “mentor” to Halejian throughout the process of signing with a professional team. Though D’Amico did not recruit or coach Halejian during her time at Yale, D’Amico played professional basketball abroad herself for five years, and had connections with multiple agents.
“I gave [Halejian] 10 to 15 agents, and it’s a process to pick an agent, much like it is picking a school,” D’Amico said. “She’s very talented and I was sure she was going to get picked up.”
Halejian’s successful season in Edinburgh, combined with her her impressive resume at Yale, made her attractive to international agents and teams. At Yale, she was Ivy League Rookie of the Year and then twice named to the All-Ivy First Team before her injury. She averaged 13.8, 15.5 and 15 points per game as a freshman, sophomore and junior, respectively, and averaged 14.9 points during her abbreviated senior campaign.
Her former Bulldog teammates overwhelmingly noted that they were proud of Halejian, and they commended her role as a leader on the team during her college career.
“Playing with Sarah was one of the biggest blessings I’ve had as a person and a basketball player,” former teammate and guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 said. “All in all, it was a joy to share the court with her for three seasons and it will be a joy to continue to watch such an amazing and passionate basketball player and person continue to play this wonderful game.”
And guard Tamara Simpson ’18, who defined Halejian an “inspiration” to her, said the former captain is one of the “hardest workers [she knows].”
At Edinburgh, Halejian helped lift the team to a championship season, earning the league, cup and playoff titles in the Scotland Senior Women’s National League.
In the playoff final against the City of Edinburgh Kool Kats, Halejian notched a double-double, scoring 20 points and snatching 11 rebounds en route to MVP honors. A month later, Halejian was again named MVP in a tournament between Scottish university students and Irish university students.
“I am really excited for my contract and this new opportunity,” All of the coaches, players, and management I have talked to from Winterthur have been nothing but professional, welcoming, and excited to have me on board!”
Halejian is Winterthur’s third American addition after Heidi Anton, who played at the University of San Francisco and Hawaii Pacific University, and Nikki Dixon, who played at Clemson. All other Winterthur players are Swiss. Halejian will be on the younger end of the squad that includes players born between the years of 1970 to 1995.