We have seen various NBA players like two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, all-star Joel Embiid, and former number one choice Michael Olowokandi begin their basketball careers “late.” While these men have no connection to our area, a professional basketball player with local ties is relatively new to the game and making her mark playing overseas.
Suné Swart, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, and a 2013 graduate of Cranberry Area High School in Seneca, Pennsylvania, moved to the United States at the age of eleven. She was not introduced to basketball until the age of fifteen, when her family moved from Minnesota to Franklin. Her father, the late Jannie Swart, had a mission to continue his education and spread his faith in the United States.
Moving to America proved to be a great decision as he accomplished many of the goals he had in mind when moving to the United States. However, the decision made a tremendous difference for his children as well. His son, Janco, became a great athlete in his own right. He is nearing the completion of a master’s degree in urban and city planning.
Then, there is Suné, who not only became an outstanding athlete but is also a Bucknell University graduate with a degree in computer science. While living in South Africa, her preferred sport was judo. Swart was not just active in the sport but also dominant at points in her youth. In fact, Swart was a three-time youth gold medalist in judo in South Africa. She also won a tournament in which she competed against all-boys when she was 10. It was a forecast of her potential as an athlete, and Swart has lived up to that potential.
For example, as a fifteen-year-old, she stood over six-foot tall and had the potential to be one of the best basketball players in District 9. She also had the potential to be a Division I or II recruit based on her height and length. For some, this would just remain potential; but, Swart put in the work and found a love for the sport. She ended her high school career as a two-time KSAC and D9 All-Star, a two-time D9 champion, and helped lead her team to an appearance in the elite-eight in the PIAA state playoffs.
Suné’s consistent play and improvement was noticed by various colleges, including her top three choices in Malone University, Robert Morris, and Bucknell University. Ultimately, Bucknell University became a last-minute decision.
“I chose Bucknell because my family and I fell in love with the school and what it could offer,” said Swart. “The coaching staff was also great, and it had various degrees to study because it is a liberal arts college.”
Attending Bucknell proved to be a great decision as she had an impressive career with the Bison. Swart was a Third Team All-Patriot League, a Patriot League All-Tournament Team selection, a Patriot League Player of the Week, and a three-time member of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. She also became Bucknell’s single-season record holder in field goal percentage (.540), played in 116 games, and was a winner of Bucknell’s Ronald J. “Pete” Pedrick Award.
Swart was also a part of a Patriot League title in her senior year of college (2016-17 season). The team went 27-6 and had the opportunity to take on Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While Bucknell lost that contest, it would not be the final time Swart would suit up in a regulation basketball game.
Currently, the Cranberry High School grad is playing professionally in Europe. She got her start in professional basketball in 2017, playing for CD Promete in Spain. She remains in Spain and has played for Club Deportivo Promete and Baxi Ferrol as well. Currently, playing for Baxi Ferrol means playing alongside women from all over the world.
“I think that one of the best things about being a pro basketball player is playing alongside people from all over the world,” Swart said.
While some of the players are from Spain, not all of the players are fluent in Spanish. It takes a group effort to communicate the plays and schemes, but it makes the team closer in the end. While Swart is not fluent in Spanish, she has become pretty comfortable speaking the language.
In her journey to professional basketball, she has many to thank. Rogers Laugand, Chrissy Stefanini, Aaron Roussell, and Mike Lane are four coaches who all had a huge hand in Swart’s success. Laugand helped Swart get noticed on the AAU circuit, while Lane, Roussell, and Stefanini helped her develop as a high school player and at Bucknell. She thanks the likes of Cody Miller and Cassandra Baier from Bucknell strength and conditioning for helping her improve as an all-around.
All of these people helped a young woman achieve a dream of playing professional basketball, and that is a testament to their character. Overall, the South African is enjoying her time as a professional athlete. She has a great perspective on what has helped her remain focused and overcome various challenges in her life.
“I think staying in the moment and having a constant mindset of thankfulness is what has worked for me. Do not focus on what is next, but having the philosophy on focusing what is current is best,” said Swart.
Swart delivered this message after asking her what her life may hold after her days as a professional athlete. Coaching basketball or becoming a professional in computer science both could be in store for her someday. However, it is best to let her enjoy the opportunity she has while playing basketball in Spain.
“I am focused on winning our league championship. That is the biggest goal I have in front of me right now,” said Swart.
Suné Swart has embarked on many adventures in her young life – moving from South Africa to the United States, moving within the United States to rural Pennsylvania, becoming a Division I athlete, becoming a professional athlete, and much more. Through it all, she has embraced different cultures while celebrating the game she loves – basketball.