Deli manager enjoyed a slice of Aussie hoops |

Deli manager enjoyed a slice of Aussie hoops

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

Sandy Verdieck has always been tall.By the time she was 15-years-old, she was already a towering 6-foot-2.”I was all legs then, and I am still all legs,” said Verdieck, whose arms nearly match the length of her legs.Growing up, she put her height to good use, playing basketball for Grand Junction High School and earning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah.”They were one of the teams that were recruiting me, and I had an old teammate who was already playing there, so I choose Utah,” Verdieck said.

By the time she entered college, she had tacked on two inches to her height and was a dominant center/forward for the Utes. Playing basketball for a team that went 49-3 during her time at Utah, Verdieck was having a great time playing for the Utes.”It was wonderful,” she said.Then, Verdieck’s life turned upside down or, maybe more appropriately, went down under.Although she was a little shy of her graduation requirements at Utah, Verdieck received an offer to go play basketball professionally in Australia.”My coach (at Utah) asked me and said (leagues in Australia) were looking for players,” Verdieck said. “I said, ‘Sure, what else have I got to do?'”So Verdieck left the United States, and headed for Hobart, capital of the state of Tasmania, an island south of Melbourne.

She suited up as a player for the Hobart Hooker’s Hustle in the International Basketball League and played in an opposite-from-the-U.S. March-October season.Accustomed to playing against other women her age, the Australian league was a little different for Verdieck.”Most of their club players were 15-25 years old. So at age 22, I was just trying to keep up with them,” she said. “They had a lot wider range down there.”After playing for a very successful program in Utah, Verdieck noticed there weren’t as many fans in Australia.”It was nothing like the states, but we probably had 100-150 people come to games,” she said.Being a professional basketball player didn’t bring in enough money to live on, so Verdieck was forced to get a side job. She found one at a local supermarket in Hobart.

“I would work during the day and then play basketball at night,” she said.After playing hoops for three years in Australia, and traveling around to see Sydney, Melbourne and the coasts, Verdieck returned to America for her brother’s wedding in Grand Junction. Upon her return and spending time with her family, Verdieck decided not to venture back down under.”I didn’t have enough money to go back,” Verdieck said. “And I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. After 19 years, I had enough.”She stayed in Grand Junction, working at City Market, for four years until she met her future husband, Gary. Then the newlyweds decided to move to New Castle, where they have now lived for more than 15 years. Verdieck makes a living as the deli manager at City Market, but her main focus is raising her 14-year-old daughter, Victoria, who will be a freshman at Coal Ridge this year. Victoria, who shares her mother’s interest in basketball, has also inherited her height, as she stands 5-foot-11. Verdieck didn’t drop basketball from her life after relocating to New Castle. She helped coach the Four Seasons Basketball Club and was also a volunteer assistant one year at Rifle High School. Verdieck has given instruction to Victoria throughout her life on how to better her game and also looks forward to watching her play for the Titans this year.

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