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CCGA has international basketball influence
Posted 01/19/2016 09:00AM

By Benjamin Wolk l The Brunswick News

It might only be a 3,500-person school in a small town in southeast Georgia, but — thanks to its basketball teams — the College of Coastal Georgia is starting to have a worldwide feel.

Four of the 21 players on the Mariner men's and women's basketball teams were born outside of the United States. And, especially on the women's side, the international standouts are much more than just members of the team. They are some of the biggest contributors for the Lady Mariners.

Janne Tullius, Gabby O'Sullivan and Anissa Toumi all had very different paths to Brunswick, but all three journeys intersected at the gymnasium on Coastal Georgia's campus. On the men's team, Andrej Tomic joined the international group on campus this season.

For Tullius — the first of the bunch to suit up for Coastal Georgia — it required a transition period without fellow foreign players for assistance.

"After being the only international player on the team my freshman year, it was great to have a few more come in the following years," Tullius said. "We all know how it feels to be so far away from home, and we understand each other when we talk about what we miss."

When Tullius stepped on campus in 2012, she arrived from Hamburg, Germany, where she played 10 years of club basketball for Gymnasium Heidberg. During that stint, Tullius also served on the German U-16 and U-18 teams in 2009 and 2011, respectively. But as those seasons came to close, she began working with an agency in Germany designed to help out with United States athletic scholarships.

She dished out her applications and game film. Then-Mariner women's basketball coach Betsy Harris caught a glimpse of Tullius and immediately requested her talents at the NAIA school in Brunswick.

Tullius didn't hesitate.

Her talents have translated well to the American game, though she notes differences in the style of play. She averaged 3.3 points per game as a freshman. That number increased to 9.9 per game by her junior year. This season, as a Coastal Georgia senior, Tullius leads all Coastal Georgia women with 13.3 points per clip.

"I had to adapt to the fast pace of the game, as well as being more cautious with the decisions I make — where to pass the ball, when it's the right time to shoot, how to be more disciplined," Tullius said.

She's seemed to make that transition well through her four years. And in the seasons following her arrival, Tullius has been able to help a pair of other Lady Mariners with their south Georgia adjustments.

O'Sullivan joined the Coastal Georgia backcourt in the 2013-14 season after spending some time at Corpus Christi College in Perth, Australia. While at the Perth prep school, O'Sullivan rose to the top as one of the best players in the Western Australia Basketball League, making three all-star teams and earning league MVP in 2012.

She always knew she wanted to play collegiate basketball in the United States, and after her 2012 season in Australia, an international recruiter matched her with Coastal Georgia. She seemed like a great pair for the Mariners, and that translated to her first season as she earned 29.4 minutes of playing time per game, despite saying the speed adjustment of the game wasn't easy.

"The American game involves much more athleticism than in Australia," O'Sullivan said. "The biggest challenge for me was just keeping up with the pace of the game. Now when I go home, my coaches tell me to slow down."

As she adapted to the pace of play, O'Sullivan's point totals doubled from year one to year two. Now, as a senior, the Australian native sits third on the team with 10.9 points per game. She also leads the team in assists with 3.9 per contest.

Perhaps the toughest part for her, though, was the classroom, where she hadn't been for two years prior to arriving at Coastal Georgia.

"I had been graduated from high school for almost two years by the time I came stateside in 2013," O'Sullivan said. "It was hard getting back into the flow of being in a classroom with homework and all that comes with it."

She's made that transition a seamless one, too, earning Southern States Athletic Conference all-academic honors last season.

Her biggest assistance with all of it, she said, is having "other internationals alongside" her to help with cultural change. For the Lady Mariners' newest out-of-country talent, however, the transition has required even more change.

Anissa Toumi came from Geneva, Switzerland, last season to join the Coastal Georgia women's basketball team. Much more like Tullius than O'Sullivan, Toumi was faced with more than just culture shock — she needed to improve her English.

Still broken, at times, Toumi has done an impressive job, according to coaches and teammates, of improving that element, which has made her much more comfortable with in-game moments on the court, as well.

"I'm grateful to have two international teammates that are first my friends, even more than just teammates," Toumi said. "It's always good to have them when sometimes I need someone to understand what I'm trying to say."

As for the basketball aspect, that has been a piece of cake for the 6-foot Swiss forward. She played at the College of Gambach before arriving at Coastal Georgia, winning the MVP award in her final season in the Swiss league. She won the U-18 country championship that season, too.

That success has translated into her second season with the Lady Mariners, as she finds herself in the top five on the team in scoring, averaging 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Tomic, a 7-footer who hails from Bosnia-Herzegovina, joined the men's team when Toumi was added to the women's team two years ago. He's only seen action in 14 of the team's 19 games, but he earned two starts during that time.

For all four members, however, the answer seems to be the same when it comes to their favorite part of the coastal Georgia area.

"I love living so close to the beach," Tullius said, an answer her teammates agreed with.

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