Simmons Basketball alumna Nikki Cohen '08 has signed a contract to play for the Israeli professional basketball team Hapoel Be'er Tuviya. Be'er Tuviya is associated with the Israeli women's second league, Ligat Leumi. Cohen becomes the first Simmons graduate ever to play basketball at this elevated level overseas.
Cohen had a history of success in her Sharks jersey as a 6'4" undergraduate at Simmons. She currently ranks 4th in games played in a Simmons uniform for her career (99), 19th in career rebounds (143) including a career high of 15 rebounds vs. Fisher College on Dec 10, 2007. Cohen also ranks 2nd for career blocks (79). Cohen also ranks 3rd for blocked shots in a season (40) and was named to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Sportsmanship team as a senior.
After graduating from Simmons, Cohen traveled between her home in Wellesley, Mass. and Europe, living in Barcelona for seven months. The pull to play basketball caught up with her in Spain, where she played for an amateur league with a Bolivian team. Cohen returned to the States to save up again before moving to Israel to do a five-month volunteering program through Oranim. "I volunteered in a high school called Mekif Zayin, in Ashdod, the city I now live in, and helped out in the English classes. I also volunteered with small children at a Women's Shelter and at an afterschool program at an Alternative School," said Cohen.
While teaching English, Cohen got in touch with the Maccabi Ashdod first league team. She practiced with Maccabi Ashdod until the end of their season, and was then referred to Hapoel Be'er Tuviya, where she is now a team member.
Cohen moved to Israel permanently on August 29, and is now an Israeli citizen. Her schedule is packed with basketball and language classes. From Sunday to Thursday she takes Hebrew lessons for four and a half hours a day in a class with other new immigrants. She is the only American. "I'm not fluent in Hebrew, it is actually quite difficult for me," said Cohen. "With my Hebrew classes, speaking with friends, and at basketball, I am learning little by little."
On top on learning the language, Cohen practices with the basketball team two times a week and has games every Tuesday. The days she doesn't have practice, she goes to the gym or practices on her own.
"Nikki has come a long way," said Simmons Head Basketball Coach Tony Price. "She is a great example on the importance of believing in yourself, and how that can take you to new heights."
Cohen is eager to see where her new life takes her as she continues to assimilate to the Israeli language and way of life, with basketball as her touchstone. A world away, her former team is cheering her on as they each prepare for their upcoming seasons.