Daria Mieloszynska: Polish native makes most of her U.S. basketball experience
To most fans, senior forward Daria Mieloszynska stands out from her teammates for her Polish heritage and unique last name. Though Mieloszynska (pronounced “meal-ah-shzin-skah”) has thoroughly enjoyed her experience playing U.S. collegiate basketball, Poland remains close to her heart.
“I would really like to go back to Europe and play in front of my family. I’m also thinking about playing for the Polish National Team because they have already expressed interest in me,” said the rangy 6-2 Mielosyznska.
It is no surprise that Mieloszynska wants to return to Poland so her biggest fan – her dad Henry - can watch her play. Daria has a close relationship with her father due to their mutual love of sports and the fact he introduced her to reggae music and her favorite artist, Bob Marley.
“My dad is a musician. When I was young, he would let me listen to his records, and I would watch MTV Classic with him. I remember discovering Bob Marley and reggae music and it’s been my favorite since then. I have all of Bob’s CDs, and a Bob Marley t-shirt and backpack!” exclaimed Mieloszynska.
Though family is her number one priority and biggest support group, Daria’s first encounter with basketball came at the urging of a teacher. Reluctantly, she gave it a try.
“I started playing basketball in grade school when one of my teachers told me that there was a recreational group that needed more girls to try out,” Mieloszynska explained. “I hesitated at first because I knew nothing about the game, but my passion for sports in general led me to try out. Ever since then, 14 years ago, I’ve loved playing basketball,” explained Mieloszynska.
Growing up in Poznan, Poland, it was the people around Daria that pushed her further in basketball.
“Every time someone challenges me to do something bigger, I feel more motivated to go do it,” she stated. “The biggest hurdle I faced was people challenging me to accomplish more by telling me that I couldn’t succeed in basketball. I felt determined to prove them wrong, so I would stay after practice and work on everything. I was really serious about what I was doing, which eventually led me here.”
Traveling overseas to pursue her basketball career presented more obstacles to overcome: adjusting to American culture and language, and to the American style of playing.
“I listened and watched a long time before I got comfortable with English and the American ways,” Daria explained. “American basketball is much faster than European play. Here, the ball moves down court really quickly, and fast breaks are everywhere. In Europe, we focused on being versatile, playing both beyond and inside the line. Over there, players with post height can also shoot three-pointers, something rarely found at the Erwin Center. But, a post players’ speed and fast-break ability is something you can only find here,” said Mieloszynska.
When she came to play for Texas as a junior college transfer (from basketball powerhouse Illinois Central College), the Eastern European studies major figured to be a three-point shooter on the perimeter. However, this year the need for inside support and play with all the inexperience and injuries led Mieloszynska to make the transition to forward.
“The hardest adjustment when playing in the paint is reading the defenses. As a guard, I was able to see the basket, know what play I was going to make. As a post, you read the defense through your back, which I’m not yet used to, so I don’t always know where to move. It’s tough, but I think I’ve seen progress in my playing this season,” said Mieloszynska.
And play she has. Daria has stepped into a starting role six times in the 11 games she has played in to date. She averages 13 minutes, three points and three rebounds per game.
“My favorite thing about playing at Texas is the fun we have when we travel and the opportunity to see different places,” Mieloszynska remarked. “The Bahamas trip was a good team-connecting experience. I was able to see Rockefeller Center and the famous tree and other sights I’ve heard about in New York when we went to play Rutgers. I think the coaches need to plan more trips to the places like that, and, above all, to Poland!”
Though her tenure on the 40 Acres will only last two years, Mieloszynska credits the opportunity to play at UT as her biggest opportunity.
“Texas has a great successful basketball history and is one of the best schools in the world. I would never have imagined playing here as a young grade student who tried out for recreational basketball on a whim,” Daria stated. “The experience of being a senior at Texas is probably one of my proudest moments. This has been an opportunity of a lifetime.”