2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup: How patience led Yvonne Anderson become a Serbian stalwart

The 32-year-old's basketball journey to date may have been long and winding but now the European champ is exactly where she needs to be as her team bid for glory in Sydney at the 2022. 

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Yvonne Anderson knows good things take time.

After a bright four years at the University of Texas, the 1.70m-tall guard and daughter of coach Mike Anderson seemed destined for America’s premier basketball league: the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

But then, in 2012, she went un-drafted.

Set back, but undeterred, Anderson continued to work on her game. And a year later, she was picked up by Sweden’s Visby Ladies.

What then followed was a decade-long overseas hoops odyssey.

From Sweden to Luxembourg, to Italy, Greece and Turkey, Anderson spent the following 10 years honing her craft across the other side of the Atlantic regularly encountering WNBA players competing in Europe in their off-season along the way.

In 2015, Serbia’s head coach Marina Maljkovic saw Anderson while she as playing for Pallacanestro Torino. Impressed with what she saw, Maljokvic invited the American to join her side at Galatasaray, a club she was also coaching in the Turkish league.

Three years later, when Anderson reappeared in the Turkish Super League for Besiktas, Maljkovic called upon her again but this time to ask if she would consider representing Serbia internationally.

Without hesitation the Arkansas native accepted the offer. With the depth of talent in the United States it is not uncommon for Americans to forge an international career elsewhere.

And while there was some delay to the process, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson became available for Serbia just in time for EuroBasket 2021.

It was perfect timing.

The European powerhouse would go on to win the event, defeating familiar rivals France in the final with their newest recruit leading all-scorers.

Then, three quick months later from claiming their continental crown Serbia, and Anderson, were Japan-bound for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

And though the Serbs failed to muster up another medal, with France exacting their EuroBasket revenge in the bronze medal-match, Anderson had ticked off another accomplishment she had once though might never be possible.

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As Anderson was carving out memories for herself with her new Serbian team-mates, she was also unknowingly catching the attention of the WNBA who were studying the newly-minted international closely.

Amongst her impressive performances on the world stage Anderson had put on a particularly strong showing against Team USA in the semi-finals of the Olympics. She led Serbia with 15 points, two rebounds and one assist.

Then her graft finally seemed to pay off.

At the start of this year a dream that the Serbian-American had for a long time finally came to fruition when she made the roster of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun; becoming, in effect, a 32-year-old rookie.

Though Anderson was later waived in June by the eventual 2022 WNBA finalists, her late career bloom has become a case study in why there is no one perfect way to forge a professional basketball career. Not least as Anderson will now be even more of an asset to Serbia come tip-off in late September with time on the paint in the US under her belt.

As the Group A MVP from the World Cup qualifiers early this year, where she averaged 22.7 points, 4.3 assists and two steals per game to ensure Serbia were unbeaten at the event, Anderson's on-court dynamism will be crucial piece of the puzzle if Serbia are to advance out of the group stage n Sydney.

Serbia will face France, Japan, Canada, Australia and Mali in the tournament's opening round with the knowledge that only four will progress through.

It won’t be easy.

But with the length of the journey Anderson has been on to get to this stage she understands all too well that nothing comes easily; rather it comes with grit, hard-work, and above all, patience.

READ MORE: Women’s Basketball World Cup: Preview, schedule and stars to watch with Paris 2024 spot at stake


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