Spanish basketball standout’s transition to Flashes

Itziar Llobet. Photo by Phil Botta.


Itziar Llobet. Photo by Phil Botta.

Matt Lofgren

Kent State’s recruiting pipeline got a little longer last year when the women’s basketball team landed one of the best players in Spain to come to the U.S. and play for the Flashes.

Freshman Itziar Llobet, or Itchy to her coaches and teammates, has made a splash so far this season in almost every stat line for the Flashes. A native of Sant Cugat de Valles, Spain, Llobet is quickly learning a new style of basketball.

“Here in America, the game is more physical,” Llobet said. “You have to be stronger and go hard every play. In Europe, we have players, for the most part, that are skinny. We do have some stronger girls, but here you have more advantages by your body being stronger.”

Llobet has been in Kent State coach Bob Lindsay’s starting lineup since the beginning of the season, and so far it has paid off in dividends. Adjusting to the new style of play, Llobet is third on the team in scoring, behind juniors Trisha Krewson and Diamon Beckford, and leads all freshmen scorers by averaging 8.8 points per game.

Despite her early successes, Llobet insists her game is the result of hard work at practice and game experience.

“Everything is different here,” Llobet said. “Everything is quicker and faster. You have to sprint everywhere because the game is so fast. In every game with every team we play against, I see that they are stronger. All the coaches are trying to help me to understand the game is more physical, and I need to play hard every day.”

With all the changes in her life, Llobet is most thankful for all her teammates who have helped her in everything from college life to understanding our language.

“Their manner in talking to me is perfect,” Llobet said. “I came here being a freshman from Spain, and they helped me in all the things I need. I am so grateful for them because I didn’t know what was going on, so they helped me. I feel better because they helped me with the language because I could speak English but not well.”

Before coming to Kent State, Llobet was a standout for the Spanish National Team. From 16 to 18 she played for her country and won a FIBA championship in the U16 league and was a key component to Spain’s third place finish in Romania last August. The Flashes’ assistant coach, Lori Bodnar, who has ties to players in Europe, caught wind of Llobet through recruiting tapes and worked hard to get her to play for the team.

“Coach Lori called me and my parents,” Llobet said. “Because my parents don’t speak English, my sister talked to her to try and find the better option for me and finally the best place was Kent.”

In order for the Flashes to have success, the team needs Llobet to keep improving. As of now, she is averaging more than 30 minutes on the floor per game and has started every game for the Flashes.

Having seen the team from the very beginning when all the new players came together to now, Llobet sees progress in every game and feels they are on the right track.

“I think that when we started as a new team, we didn’t know what was going on here because most of us are freshmen,” Llobet said. “I think that like Coach says, we are improving and getting better, and you will see. We still have 12 games to play, and we are playing harder.”

Llobet and the Flashes return home this Thursday for a matchup against Buffalo (5-13, 0-4 MAC) at 7 p.m.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected] and @MLofgrenDKS.