Women's Basketball

Dutch Slim struggles to adjust to American game, find stroke for Syracuse

Isabella Slim’s first step on the Syracuse campus for the beginning of her freshman year happened to fall on the same day classes started. She had just gotten off a plane from the Netherlands, where she finished up playing for the national women’s basketball team this summer.

She had no time to adjust, and it showed when she stepped on the court.

“During the first few practices,” Slim said,” I did everything wrong.”

Considering the short adjustment period, Slim started out pretty well when the games finally got underway though. She impressed Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman enough for him to start her from the first game. She posted double figures three times during the non-conference slate, including 17 points in a Dec. 19 win over Niagara.

But since the start of conference play, Slim’s performance has dipped considerably. She’s connected on just 2-of-22 shots in her last eight games, including 1-of-14 from behind the 3-point line. Though the former Dutch standout still cracks the starting five, she’s often relegated to the bench after just a few minutes on the court.

“Everything’s different,” Slim said. “All the automatics that I have, they all have to be different now. It goes faster, and is a little more physical sometimes. It’s just a different game.”

Slim said that basketball in the states is much quicker. There’s a shorter shot clock. In the Netherlands, Slim was a different type of player. Back home, she was a dual threat. She would score off the dribble and knock down shots from long range.

At SU, she’s been reduced to shooting mostly 3s. Sixty-six of her 90 shot attempts have been from behind the arc. Teams have adjusted to her talents, but she hasn’t been able to adjust herself.

“I think it’s the speed of the game and I think it’s the shorter shot clock,” Hillsman said. “It’s the continuity. It’s the broader lane lines. It’s the shoot-around. It’s the food here. She came straight from her national team straight here.”

Hillsman said because teams have multiple tapes on Slim, there are no more surprises. He said he hasn’t lost confidence in her, and neither have her teammates.

The head coach said the only cure to break out of the slump is to keep shooting, and that’s exactly what she’s done. Against Virginia Tech on Thursday, Slim missed all five of her shot attempts in just 14 minutes.

“What’s going to happen one of these days is we’re going to be sitting here and she’s going to be 6-for-7,” Hillsman said. “She’s a tremendous, tremendous shooter.”

Brittney Sykes said last season she noticed a huge spike in the competition at the beginning of Big East play as a freshman. But she said that she was able to adjust to improved competition.

Sykes noted that there is a steeper learning curve for a player from the Netherlands, where they don’t play the same 2-3 zone that Syracuse runs almost exclusively.

“She hasn’t seen this type of basketball,” Sykes said. “It’s kind of different. We have faith in her and we know that she can shoot the ball really well. We’re just waiting for her to have that breakout game.”

After practice on Wednesday, Slim and Brianna Butler went over to the far right court of the Carmelo K. Anthony Center and they started shooting.

Slim went shot for shot with the team’s best 3-point shooter. Each swish was followed by another.

Slim’s shot is just as sweet as it was the day she arrived at Syracuse. But since the middle of January, that hasn’t been evident on the court.

“I think I just have to get adjusted to everything, because it’s kind of different from back home, different kind of basketball,” Slim said. “I still struggle sometimes.”

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