It has been six months since Sweets Underwood played her last basketball game for UCSB, and she has since gone over seas to play professionally in Keltren, Germany. The jump from playing collegiate basketball to the professional ranks can be daunting, but that hasn't been the case for Underwood.
In her debut with Gruner Stern Keltran Basketball Team, Underwood led her team to a 68-61 victory by putting up a double-double with game-highs of 25 points and 14 rebounds.
Although 5800 miles away from Santa Barbara, Underwood admits she is still being pushed in practice and in games by words from her collegiate head coach Carlene Mitchell: "Ice water in your veins. Mental toughness, kid."
"Believe it or not, I still hear that in my head," Underwood said. "With that, I know I have been well prepared to play on this level."
Underwood recognized that she came a long way as a player even from her junior year at UCSB, which was Mitchell's first season as head coach.
"When Coach Mitch first got hired, she asked me if I wanted to pursue a professional basketball career, and I responded with 'No way! After college, I'm done with basketball.'"
Underwood admitted that during the ensuing season, the thought of playing professionally kept popping into her head. Finally, she gave in to the idea, and in the summer preceding her senior season, she decided she wanted to play professionally.
"Everything that I do in life, I strive to be the best at so ultimately my goal is to always reach the highest level of what I'm doing," she said.
All is well on the court for Underwood, and she's also been enjoying her time away from the game.
"I'm in a new country, experiencing a different culture, eating delicious German food, learning to speak a different language, traveling, and meeting new people," Underwood said. "I am living the dream. It's a little overwhelming, yet I'm embracing it all."
One aspect of German culture that took Underwood by surprise was its national effort in being eco-friendly. That meant for Underwood, no microwave and no dryer, things she initially thought she couldn't live without.
"I asked my German teammate, 'We don't have a dryer, how do I dry my clothes?'"
Taken aback by the American's question, she responded, "There is this thing called a clothes line, you hang them up there."
Along with using clotheslines, Underwood has embraced the country's environmental friendly approach by adding recycling and turning off the lights as parts of her usual routine.
Gaucho fans were accustomed to seeing Underwood sport the number one, but with a veteran player already owning the number, she made the change to 15.
"Fifteen was the first number I wore during my first two years of playing basketball," Underwood said. "Essentially, it's symbolic for new beginnings because indeed this is a new beginning, I once again have something to prove."
Even after scoring more than 1,000 points and posting 800-plus rebounds at UCSB, Underwood is determined to push her limits with a new team.
"This is only the beginning of an amazing journey with the best still yet to come," Underwood said. "My high school coach, Derrick Florence, who introduced me to basketball, told me that once you start believing in yourself, the sky is the limit.
"And now I truly believe that the sky is the limit, the only person that can stop me is me."
The Gauchos' 2013-14 is just around the corner and season tickets are now available online or on the phone at 805-893-UCSB. UCSB's schedule boasts exciting home matchups with Arizona, Utah State, and San Diego State, a rematch from last season's WNIT game.
The season tips off Nov. 3 with an exhibition against Vanguard.