Lyons continues hoops career overseas

Jon Young

When former Wildcat hoops star Chelsea Lyons started her college career, she was buried on the bench at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Since she learned that professional basketball existed at the age of five, Lyons dreamed of taking her game to the next level, but that wasn’t going to become a reality in her first collegiate stop.

“I was told I was never going to amount to anything, the UWGB coach told me that I didn’t have any natural ability or technical skills to play the game at that level,” Lyons said. “He said he would love to keep me on the team because I was a two-sport athlete, I had a great attitude, but if I ever wanted to actually play I should transfer schools.”

Lyons took that advice and transferred to NMU with two years left of basketball eligibility.

The move paid off as she started 15 games in her first season and led the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game while earning All-GLIAC Second Team honors.

“Troy took a huge chance on me because he had never seen me play and I didn’t really have any game film from UWGB to give him and I didn’t have film from high school anymore so he took a huge leap of faith taking me,” Lyons said.

The leap of faith soared for NMU head coach Troy Mattson as Lyons continued to excel on the court for the ’Cats earning All-GLIAC first team honors her senior season while averaging 16.9 points and six rebounds per contest.

“Chelsea Lyons is probably one of three if not the finest athlete to come out of Northern Michigan…I mean just as a pure athlete,” Mattson said. “Her work ethic was just second to none the past year-and-a-half. She put in extra time outside of practice every day working on her body, working on her shot as a basketball player and just put in incredible amounts of time.”

The dream of playing professionally started to become more of a reality during the start of the 2011-12 season.

“I decided I wanted to truly try to (play professionally) at the beginning of my senior year of basketball,” she said. “Then I got a letter inviting me to that tryout in January and that’s when I really started to prepare for it and in May I kind of had a go-pro-or-go-home attitude.”

The pro mindset paid off as Lyons caught the attention of scouts in her tryout and was signed to a one year deal in Romania.

“Anytime someone wants to pursue a dream and that dream comes true I’m excited for them as a person,” Mattson said. “She couldn’t have worked any harder at it and (she) really put all her time and effort into trying to get over there.”

Lyons is playing for Baschet Club Teleorma Alexandria, more commonly known as BCT Alexandria.

The team is the highest level of professional basketball in Romania and if they win their Romanian conference they get a birth into the Euroleague, which is the highest level of competition in all of European basketball.

Lyons is one of three Americans on the team and is averaging close to 15 points-per-game in three preseason contests while starting.

She said she hasn’t had to adjust her game and is still attacking the basket like she did as a Wildcat.

“NMU definitely prepared me for this,” Lyons said. “I came in here and I was on top of my game and looked like a freak of nature compared to some of the Romanians.”

Lyons said the experience of travelling overseas has also helped change her mentality regarding her future.

“I always used to freak out about my future and get really bad anxiety about it and I’m going to just kind of take it day by day now,” Lyons said. “If I get to play another year after this, awesome. If I go to another country, even better and if I have to come back home and coach or sit in a desk ,whatever, it’s God’s will, I just have to take it day by day.”

Lyons said she’ll look back fondly on her time in Marquette and the bonding that came with her Wildcat teammates on both the basketball court and soccer field.

“I miss it, I can’t believe how much I miss college and Northern in general, I’m always going to cherish the memories I had putting on that Wildcat uniform and going to the Berry,” Lyons said. “I’m blessed to be where I am but I definitely miss where I came from.”

Mattson said getting discovered is never easy espically playing Division II.

“It’s not easy for Division II guard to go overseas and play but they saw a special athlete and a speical person and she’s very very deserving of what she got.