With a plane ticket to the Netherlands tucked away for a rare visit with her family, one could have understood if former Bardstown Tiger Rianne Hofstraat had not been her usual steady self when the St. Catharine Patriots faced Milligan Dec. 14 in Lourdes Hall. After all, Hofstraat, who played her senior season as a foreign exchange student at Bardstown, has been away from her family for most of the past five years.
Instead, if the 6-2 senior forward had not purchased Christmas gifts for her family, she could have gift wrapped the video of the Patriots’ 83-76 loss to the Mighty Buffaloes. It would have been a terrific stocking stuffer. Hofstraat put on one of the best individual performances in St. Catharine history by notching a triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 blocked shots. That outing solidified her position as St. Catharine’s go-to girl this season.
She’s been used to playing second fiddle to players like Daizah Kimberland at Bardstown and All-Americans Reilly Poirier and Janae Howard in previous years at St. Catharine. “I know that I am going to have to step up my game this year,” she said recently. “I’ve always known my role on my teams, and it seems weird that I am in this position now.” Hofstraat has adapted to that role quite well. She leads St. Catharine (3-5) in scoring (15.5 per game), rebounding (7.3), blocked shots (40), and free throw percentage (84 percent). She ranks second nationally in total blocks and blocks per game and is ranked 21st in free throw percentage.
Her outstanding play this year is a culmination of the maturation process from a shy youngster coming to the United States to attend school and play basketball to a young lady confident in her abilities. “Basketball in my country is not as popular as it is here, and you played on club teams instead of school teams,” she said. “In the Netherlands, you played mostly for fun, whereas in this country, the game is played at a much faster pace, and you don’t want to lose. At home, if you lost a game, you forgot about it right afterwards and went on about your life.” She noted that, as with many foreign players, the fundamentals of the game and intricate knowledge of how to play the game are stressed more than the physical nature of the game played in the States.
It’s that understanding of the game that attracted St. Catharine Coach Lena Bramblett to Hofstraat. “I saw her play at Bardstown and loved her length and knowledge of the game,” said Bramblett. “She is an extremely smart player who has a very high basketball IQ." “She has matured into a very confident scorer and a defensive threat. (Rianne) has impeccable timing on the ball.”
Hofstraat has not only made the adjustment to basketball in the U.S., but she laughs when she talks about the fun of growing up here while admitting she misses her parents and siblings. “We text and do face time and have other ways to communicate,” she said. “I miss my family and have moments when I ask myself what I am doing here. But sometimes I think it’s nice that I don’t have someone to tell me where to go or what to do.”
She is also appreciative of her Bardstown friends who have made her transition easier. They have been generous in giving her rides since she has no means of transportation. Tony and Kathy Graham and daughter Jordan, a classmate at Bardstown and St. Catharine, open their home to Hofstraat at Thanksgiving and Easter and take her and pick her up at the airport when necessary.
With her final semester approaching, Hofstraat is now looking towards her future. She will graduate in May with a biology degree, and is considering staying in the States to get a master’s and Ph. D. in organic chemistry. She would like to do research in a lab. “I would need to further my education here to be successful in Holland,” she said. “In my country, everyone is expected to go to college. It’s hard to get a job if you don’t.”
Article by Dennis George, Kentucky Standard