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On national duty with Cristina Bigica

This season, the Flyers Women saw great production from Cristina Bigica. Debuting for the team in September, she quickly became one of the Flyers’ leading offensive players and her scoring average ranked among the best in the entire league.

It’s then not surprising, but is exciting, to hear that she learned her game playing at a higher level than most. Her formative years in basketball were spent representing her home country, Romania on the international stage.

“Basketball is quite popular in Romania, very easy to get into,” the Bucharest native told bristolflyers.co.uk.

“I first started playing when I was 10 years old,” - and it didn’t take long for her abilities to flourish and for her talents to be recognised.

In 2008, Bigica earned her first national call-up to the Romanian team for the Under-16 European Division B tournament, where they finished third. “When I was at that age I didn’t fully understand the achievement of making the national team, I was simply happy to be there and play basketball.”


A Revolutionary Moment

Bigica averaged 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists in the 2011 U20 European Championship

She moved up to the Under-18 team the following year, and in 2010 came her finest moment at that year’s European Championships, which were held in Romania.

“There were huge expectations of us in that tournament because we were hosts,” she says, but if the team were feeling any pressure, they did not show it on the court. Romania dropped only one game en route to the title bout against the Netherlands, which went all the way down to the final moment.

“It was an altogether amazing experience ... To win the gold medal by scoring a buzzer beater has been my best memory and probably my favorite moment in international basketball.” As well as winning the title, Bigica finished as Romania’s top scorer and was named to the All-Tournament team.

She went on to play twice for the Under-20 team, leading in scoring both times, but couldn’t repeat the same tournament success she had in 2010.


The 3x3 World Championships

Image credit - B.East Photography

Later on, Bigica was able to write another chapter in her international career. By winning Romania’s national Streetball tournament, she and her team earned the right to represent the country at the 2014 3x3 World Championships – a variation of basketball regarded very highly in Romania.

“This was special because of the high 3x3 activity and tournaments we have in Romania, and I see 3x3 as very different from traditional basketball - perhaps more fun!” she explains.

“It was also special because it was such a young sport at the time, not many countries had much activity in the 3x3 field. Now it’s growing into an Olympic sport, (which is) really exciting.”

Placing third in their group, Romania moved on to the knockout round where they beat Spain 16-12, then losing to eventual runners-up Russia in the quarter-finals – still Romania’s best finish in the competition. The USA took home the title in 2014.


Personal Victories

Bigica’s early international performances earned her a scholarship to the Marquette Golden Eagles in the NCAA, but her time playing for Romania holds a special significance for her.

“I would have never been recruited to play in the States if I hadn’t had the exposure of playing internationally,” she says. “(Playing for Romania) is one of my highest achievements as an athlete. Everyone should represent their national team if given the opportunity.”

She is also proud of the relationships she has formed throughout her youth career: “Our national team from the Under-18 generation is still very close. I am pleased to say I am still good friends with many of my old team mates to this day, in the UK and also back home and in other parts of the world.”

Her former teammates include, among many others, recent Romanian internationals and some of the country’s highest-profile players: Sonia Ursu-Kim, Gabriela Irimia and Anca Sipos.


Finding the Flyers

Still making occasional appearances for the senior women’s team, Bigica was included in the short list for EuroBasket 2015, which was co-hosted by Romania, but did not make the final squad. “It was disappointing, especially as it was the last time I played with the national team,” she concedes, “but you learn from it and move forward."

It may have been the last time she played basketball altogether, as she decided to have a break and focus on her professional life. After discovering the Flyers shortly after moving to Bristol last year, though, she found herself drawn back to the game - and the team, its organisation and fans are all so pleased for that.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would play basketball again after a long time away, but I am really happy to have found the Flyers and I’m having a great time playing again. I am confident we can finish on a high note this season!”


About the contributor

Written by Jack Ford. A recent member of the Flyers Family, Jack has been volunteering with Bristol Flyers writing game reports on Flyers Women for the website and game day programme.