This feature story appeared in the game program for the Cornell-Columbia weekend (March 2-3).
Sasha Dosenko Brings Her Basketball Talents Across the Pond to Dartmouth
Senior women's basketball player Sasha Dosenko was not supposed to be a basketball player. Her parent's Valeriy and Nadzeya were both members of the USSR Olympic rowing teams so they just assumed she was going to be a rower too, but Dosenko had other plans; she picked up a basketball at 11 and never looked back.
"I started playing basketball when I was around 11 and originally my parents thought I would row, but you typically get involved with rowing when you are older around 15 or 16. They started me with swimming and then they switched me to basketball, primarily to keep me active but I really enjoyed it so I stuck with it.
Basketball has afforded Dosenko some international basketball opportunities that many don't have. She has spent time on the Ukrainian National Team and has spent part of her summers competing at the European Championships. During her time with the national team, she has led the team to a first place finish in the Division B, Euro Championships and helped the squad to a seventh place finish when they moved into Division A in 2005.
Despite playing high school basketball in the United States, Dosenko's game is decidedly European and she acknowledges that there are quite a few differences between American basketball and European basketball.
"There are a lot of differences between Europe and America in terms of basketball. In Europe, it's less aggressive than in America and it's more focused on speed and your skill set." Dosenko thinks that her combination of European and American style is a benefit to her individual game and to the Dartmouth team.
"I think that it's useful to be fast and strong. It's a good combination if you can play European style and America style."
Dosenko's love of the game also sent her halfway around the country to the Kent School in Connecticut for high school.
"My mom's friends, who were also on the USSR rowing team, had a daughter that went to Kent, so I think they were also planning on sending me there for high school but I think they were anticipating me being a rower not a basketball player."
Dosenko's distinctly European brand of basketball, translated well at Kent. Kent's Most Improved Player during her freshman campaign, Dosenko excelled on the court in the next three years, earning Most Valuable Player accolades three straight seasons. She led her squad to the NEPSAC Championship her senior year and earned Class A Tournament MVP honors. When it came time for Dosenko to choose a college, it wasn't hard for her to decide Dartmouth was the place for her.
"Dartmouth has a really good combination of academics and athletics. So when I was applying to colleges, I noticed Dartmouth was playing really tough teams during the non-conference season so that's a big thing that attracted me to Dartmouth in terms of athletics. It's also an Ivy League school, so I think that speaks for itself."
As Dartmouth's lone senior this season, Dosenko has been through the rigors of an Ivy League season and has been an important piece of the Dartmouth women's basketball puzzle each of the last four seasons. Last season, Dosenko set a new career mark in rebounds with 19 boards against defending Ivy League champion, Princeton and she also led the Ivy League in blocked shots with 1.82 rejections per game. She's continuing her efforts this season and has posted seven games in double figures, highlighted by her first double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds against those pesky Princeton Tigers, on Feb. 10. Dosenko has faced some adversity this season and found herself coming off the bench midway through the season but with hard work she's worked herself back into the starting lineup and has started each of Dartmouth's last nine games. Dosenko has long been known around the league for her defense and this season is teaming up with freshman Tia Dawson to form the top shot blocking duo in Ivy League action. Dawson leads the league with 1.9 blocks per game and Dosenko is on her heels with 1.3 blocks per game. Speaking of rejections, Dosenko has definitely made her mark on the Big Green record books in that category and is currently ranked No. 8 all-time at Dartmouth with 121 blocked shots just eight shy from moving into the top five all-time.
Despite being the lone senior, Dosenko definitely doesn't feel alone. " I don't really feel alone. Our team, maybe not so much the freshmen, but our team in general is really mature. Even the sophomores, they step up and help out a lot. The best thing about Dartmouth women's basketball is that we all get along and we all have fun. No matter, if we win or lose, we are always together."
Dosenko is the only member of the current basketball team to have won an Ivy League Championship and while she cherishes that memory she is hungry for more in her last season in the Dartmouth green and white.
"Obviously, I want to win the Ivy League, that's the obvious answer, but also I want to become more of a team as we head into Ivy League action. We are so young, and at times we are all over the place, but I feel like our team has so much talent and potential. If we put it all together and start playing as a team, we're going to have fun."
Dosenko recalls some of her favorite memories of Dartmouth and going to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 was one of the highlights but she will also remember having a famous author at one of her games as a highlight of her career.
"Going to the NCAA Tournament my freshman year and playing at Maryland in front of this huge crowd was amazing, but also JD Salinger was at our game against Harvard. That was just incredible. I mean everyone knows Catcher in the Rye!"
As one of Dartmouth's post players, Dosenko has had the unique and unexpected opportunity to be coached by WNBA All-Star and Olympic great, Yolanda Griffith this season.
"I really enjoy having her around. She is really positive and always stays positive and supportive. She's a great coach and she gives really valuable advice that we can actually listen to because she's a great player and she knows what she's talking about. "
Dosenko will be the first to tell you that she doesn't watch much of the WNBA, much to coach Griffith's chagrin, but she is a Boston Celtic fan and is one of Paul Pierce's biggest fans.
"He's my favorite player because he's such a team player and he makes his teammates better, I really admire that about him and hope that that is something that I bring to my team."
As graduation nears, Dosenko is already thinking about what life will be like without Dartmouth and the women's basketball team.
"I'm going to miss my friends, definitely and just having the college experience. Unless I go to grad school later, I won't ever have this experience again and it's been such a great experience."
If Dosenko has it her way, she won't be far away from Hanover after graduation. In her time in the States, Dosenko has developed a love affair with New York City and goes there every chance she gets.
"It's close to Connecticut so I ended up going there every holiday during high school and I have a lot of friends from there. If you know a lot of people from one place, you start liking that place. Plus there is always something to do in New York City, it's quite different from Hanover."
A film and media studies major, Dosenko hopes to utilize her degree working in the film industry and would love nothing more than to be working in film in New York City.
Dosenko has certainly left her mark on the Big Green throughout her four years and it was definitely Dartmouth's gain that the only child of two Olympic rowers picked up a basketball and never looked back.