Sofia Roman '16 finds basketball success overseas

by Vikram Bodas | 1/31/16 7:30pm

When Sofia Roman ’16 was cut from the Dartmouth women’s basketball team during her junior year, she had two choices. She could either give up on her hoops career or continue to chase her dream.

That same year Roman visited her native Philippines for the first time since she left as a child, a trip that would end up saving her basketball career. Roman, who grew up in White Plains, New York, had been in contact with the Philippine women’s national team’s coaching staff since high school in the hopes that one day she would have the opportunity to compete internationally for her country.

“I went to the Philippines during our academic break between Spring and Summer 2014 for 10 days to try out and play in front of the coaches,” Roman said. “I did not think it would happen so soon, but before I left they informed [me] I had made the team.”

Roman’s coach on the national team, Patrick Henry Aquino, said that Roman’s desire to compete at a higher level coupled with her marquee defensive aggressiveness led him to add her to his roster.

“I wanted her on the team because of her competitive style and her want to prove that she can play international basketball,” Aquino said.

Roman’s impact on the international basketball stage did not end with making the team.This summer she helped the Philippine women’s national team get promoted from Division2 to Division1 in International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) rankings as a result of the team'ssuccess in the 2015 Asia Women’s Championship. ThePhilippineswonthe Division2 bracketand, as a result,was allowed to playone crossover game inDivision 1 against the No. 6 team, India. The team finished seventh out of a total 12 teams. By defeatingIndia, the team earned a promotion toplay in the six-teamDivision 1 bracketin FIBA-Asia 2017.

The promotion was the first in women’s national team history and an achievement that Roman does not take lightly.

“Being a part of history is an achievement in itself as a basketball player,” Roman said. “I am so proud of what we accomplished and I look forward to what this means for our country and women’s basketball there.”

According to the latest FIBA world rankings, the Philippines is now ranked 49th in the world, just surpassing basketball powerhouses like Hungary, Paraguay and the Virgin Islands.

As far as her Dartmouth basketball career goes, Roman cites the transition from former coach Chris Wielgus to current coach Belle Koclanes as the chief reason for her departure from the program.

“The new coach wanted to revamp the program and needed players who fit her system,” Roman said. “She also wanted to make room for future recruits.”

Although the 5’7” defensive ace was caught off guard by this decision, her confidence and desire to remain in Hanover never waned.

“To be honest, it was really hard for me to understand, but I still believed in my abilities,” Roman said. “[Division] 1 basketball has such a high turnover rate. A lot of my basketball friends have transferred from one school to another during their careers. I still believe I am [Division] 1 caliber.”

Roman said that she had the option to transfer but decided not to because of the education Dartmouth offers and because she still had the opportunity to play basketball for her country during her off terms.

Roman said that while she was unable to find her place within Koclanes’s system here at Dartmouth, her game thrived in Aquino’s fast paced offense back in the Philippines.

“We ran a dribble-drive offense,” Roman said. “The system worked well because the team has a good combination of slashers and shooters. I loved getting the kick out from my teammates who drove to basket and attacking the basket for a pull-up or an assist.”

Aquino echoed Roman’s sentiments that she perfectly fit the way he wanted his team to play.

“Our system is dribble-drive so her game can thrive because she can shoot from behind the three point line and can penetrate with her dribbling skills,” Aquino said.

Looking forward, Roman hopes to continue her international basketball career after she graduates and hopes to make a career out of basketball in the Philippines.

“Sofia is a fighter,” Danica Jose, one of Roman’s Philippines national team teammates, said. “Whenever I’m with her on the court, it’s hard for you not to give your all.”

That said, she has dreams that go beyond just excelling on the hardwood.

“I want to continue to play basketball professionally in the Philippines by representing my country,” Roman said. “In five years, I see myself in the Philippines, still playing basketball. But after that I could see myself getting into the media or maybe running a business.”

If the past is any indication, Roman will not allow any obstacles to hinder her on her way to achieving her goals.

Correction appended (Feb. 2, 2016):

This article has been corrected to reflect that Roman helped the Philippine women's national team get promoted from Division 2 to Division 1, not Level 2 to Level 1 as originally stated. This article has also been updated to reflect the details of this promotion and clarify that the team will play in the Division 1 bracket in FIBA-Asia 2017.