Andrea Nagy was born in Budapest, where she first played basketball at age 9. After her collegiate career at Florida International University, where she led the nation in assists as a junior and senior, she turned pro in 1995 and played in the American Basketball League until it folded last December. The Mystics drafted Nagy, 27, in the third round (25th overall) of the 1999 WNBA draft.
From Budapest to the Mystics:
I was 9 years old and I had played tennis for a year. But I just didn't like it. It was so boring to me because you're by yourself. So my mom knew someone at the sports school and I went down to play basketball. After that first practice, they couldn't get me away from it. I was like, "That's the sport for me."
I started out playing with girls who were two years older than me. It was year-round, and you play every day. They teach you the basics -- layups, how to throw the ball. They teach you everything. I think I just loved that I had teammates around and belonged to a group. I think that was the best part of it.
I grew pretty fast. By the time I was 12, I was about 5 foot 3. But I haven't grown too much since then. When I was 13 or 14, I basically played for two teams. I played for my age group and I played for a group that's [ages] 16 to 18.
When I was 16 I played for the junior national team for 18-year-olds. The European Championships for the junior national team were in Spain [in 1990] and that's where [Florida International University Coach] Cindy Russo saw me. [Russo] sent me a letter saying that they were interested in me. My mom pushed me really hard because she knew this was the best thing for me, to play against the best players and get an education also.
I had never been to the U.S. Actually, I did pretty good until I got on the plane [to leave Budapest in August 1991]. I had to go Budapest [to] Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Miami. In Frankfurt, if I had known how to get back to Budapest, I would have done it. I was going somewhere I didn't know anybody. I didn't know the language. I didn't know the culture. I had no friends over there. So it was pretty scary.
Basketball is a lot of fun. My freshman year, a guy on the men's team told me that he had read in the paper that I was third or fourth in assists. I didn't know what he was talking about because in Hungary they record how many points you have and maybe rebounds. But they never really tell you about assists. By the time I was a junior, they pointed out to me that this was a pretty good thing to be a leader in assists. All I knew was I liked dishing the ball out. I didn't do it for a title. It was just the way I played.
[After college] I got an offer to play [in the French pro league] in Strasbourg, France. That was like starting all over again. New country. New people. No friends. It was hard. But it wasn't as hard as my freshman year in college. We finished fifth in the country.
During the season [in Strasbourg], I heard rumors that there were going to be two professional leagues in the States. The ABL had tryouts in Atlanta and I got invited. I got selected by Seattle in the fourth round. I didn't play too much. But toward the end of the season, I started and played more. [After that season], I was released and I had to go try out for the Long Beach StingRays. I had a great time. It was a really good team. But they [the ABL] closed down Long Beach [after that year]. I had to find a new team. I ended up playing for the Philadelphia Rage until the league folded last December.
I was really happy [to be drafted by the Mystics] because I had heard about [Coach] Nancy Darsch and because I knew they were going to have Chamique [Holdsclaw] and Nikki [McCray] together. I played against Nikki when she was at Tennessee. And you could not help not knowing about Chamique.
My goal [as a child] was to play in Hungary at the highest level. When I was 19, I played for the best team in Hungary because we won the championship. I never even thought I would have a chance to play for a different country in Europe or for an American team.
CAPTION: Andrea Nagy, above left at age 13, was the NCAA Division I assists leader in her junior and senior seasons at Florida International. She will run the Mystics offense.