Soaring Across the Seas
Rebecca Maessen, a native of Holland, stands at 5 feet 10 inches with long blond hair. She has always had an interest in computers, and describes her major, information computer science, as “fun.” She also happens to be the leading scorer for the UC Irvine women’s basketball team.
When Maessen (pronounced MOSS-on) was 5 years old, she followed her older brother to basketball practice. A sympathetic coach let her play with the boys in practice, and eventually Maessen joined a boys team, because there are no girls basketball teams in Holland.
“The main sport in Holland for girls is field hockey, but I just fell in love with basketball,” Maessen said.
Ironically, while her brother stopped playing, Maessen went on to join the Dutch Junior National Team. After high school, she moved three hours away from her home in Houten to join the Yellow Bike Dames Basketball club team. Under the tutelage of famous Dutch coach Meindert Zan Zeen, Maessen’s game took off. She shot 60.5 percent from the field over two seasons, and helped the team to a Dutch National Championship for the 2003-04 season.
“When I was 16, someone told me if I wanted to, I could play in America,” Maessen said. “I was able to make connections with former UCI Assistant Coach Danny Prince. I sent him a DVD and he told me I could get a scholarship.”
Maessen’s road to the UCI starting line-up was not an easy path though. The shooting guard spent her first year in the states at Antelope Valley College, a junior college. Unfortunately, she broke her foot, sidelining her for the entire season.
“At the time it was a big set-back because I was out for a long period of time,” Maessen said. “Looking back now, it’s a good thing because I get to play four years at UCI.”
Maessen, who specializes in a deadly accurate long-distance shot, has shown marked improvement every year. After averaging 3.2 points and 7.0 points her freshmen and sophomore years, respectively, Maessen is currently averaging 13.1 points per game, good for sixth in the entire Big West. Maessen credits Head Coach Molly Goodenbour’s offensive system for putting her in a position to score.
“Coach [Goodenbour] is a tough lady, which we had to get used to at the beginning,” Maessen said. “Now we know what to expect from her, and what she expects from us. I really like playing under her because she makes it really clear what everyone’s job and role on the team is.”
In the midst of a transition year and plagued by injuries to senior forward Kelly Cochran and junior guard Mary Has, UCI has had a tough season. After losing two games this past week to Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara, its record stands at 5-18 (2-8 in the Big West). However, UCI has played most of its opponents close, and are showing a tough defense, holding number one in the conference UCSB to 20 points in the first half and 51 points overall. Maessen showed her scoring prowess by putting up UCI’s first 9 points of the game; she finished with 18 points, leading all scorers.
“Of course [the season] has been disappointing because we’ve had a lot of close losses, but at the same time I feel like we’re really building toward something good,” Maessen said. “It’s definitely not a wasted season. We’re building a foundation for the coming few years and beyond. Molly is a really good coach and will really turn around this program.”
Although Maessen does not think of herself as the “natural leader type,” her experience has put her in a position to help her teammates out. The all-tournament honoree for both the OC Clash and Arizona State Classic tournaments has shown a knack for leading by example with her play on the court, with three 20-plus point games this season and double figures in all but six games. Maessen also thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie of her teammates. UCI’s roster has a decidedly international flair, boasting representatives from New Zealand and Serbia as well.
“It’s fun meeting people from other countries. It’s always interesting to see how our other teammates react to us, because they’ve never been outside of America for the most part,” Maessen said. “Everyone’s really close though. There are no issues within the group, which is really nice.”
During the summers, Maessen, whose only pre-game ritual is the all-important nap, goes back to Holland to play for the Dutch National Team. Playing in the European “B group” of countries, Maessen represented the Netherlands against the likes of Ireland, Iceland and Macedonia last summer. Its goal is to make it up to the “A group,” which is the group of countries that try to qualify for the Olympics. Maessen also uses this opportunity to catch up on family time.
“Being away the whole year makes me really realize and appreciate how important family is,” Maessen said.
After her UCI career is over, Maessen will play professionally in Spain or Italy if given the chance. However, she also looks forward to beginning her professional career based on her future ICS degree. Already named a Big West Scholar-Athlete her first two years at UCI, Maessen really values the education aspect of her UCI experience.
“When I found out about ICS here at UCI, I really wanted to do it,” Maessen said. “Most of the classes involve solving problems … I like just sitting behind a computer and working on something until I figure it out.”
Whether Maessen is decoding the computer screen in the classroom or the opposing player’s screen on defense, she will be sure to keep breaking stereotypes on and off the court.