Sidney Rielly’s Danish basketball adventure may have come to a premature end because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it hasn’t prevented the accolades from rolling in from her first season as a professional player.
The 2014 Everett High School graduate, who spent the 2019-20 season playing for the Horsholm 79ers of the DameLigaen, the top women’s basketball league in Denmark, was named the league’s Player of the Year.
Rielly was informed of the honor Monday by her agent, Jeanne McNulty-King.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Rielly, who is back home in Everett. “I had a lot of great players on my team, we had a girl from LSU, a girl from the University of South Florida, a girl from Colorado State, and some other longtime pros. So that was a big honor because there were a lot of great players around me and in the league as well. But it was nice playing with the girls on the team, everyone was supportive of each other and we all just wanted to do our best. It was a good environment to be in my first year as a pro.”
Rielly, a 6-foot- shooting guard who was a three-time All-Big Sky selection at Portland State University from 2016-19, averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals for Horsholm. She finished third in the league in scoring and second in field-goal percentage (52.5).
Rielly helped the 79ers win the “double.” Horsholm won the Danish Cup in February, and the 79ers were awarded the league championship after finishing the regular season 16-2 — the season was canceled just before the playoffs were scheduled to begin in mid-March as social-distancing measures were enacted to try and slow the spread of coronavirus.
But though Rielly returned home from Denmark two months earlier than expected, it didn’t take the luster off what was a successful pro debut.
“I thought I played well,” Rielly said. “I had a really strong start, then I sprained my ankle pretty bad, so I was out at least three weeks, and then had a couple rough games coming back. But I think overall I fit pretty well into the team’s system. We had a great point guard in Gritt Ryder, who was the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year at Colorado State, and she hit me in transition a lot. She was really fun to play with and I thought we had a great connection on the court. I think that aided me a lot, because the strongest part of my game is getting out in transition and she was able to find me.”
Rielly said she had a smooth transition into professional basketball, largely because of the fit with Horsholm. There were no language barriers, as English is spoken regularly in Denmark, and Rielly’s up-tempo style meshed well with that of coach Jesper Krone, who is also the head coach of the Danish women’s national team. Rielly also stayed with a supportive host family that came to all the games, and she had several family members and friends take the opportunity to visit Denmark while she was there.
Rielly’s stay in Denmark came to a sudden end when she and Alyssa Rader, the team’s two American players, were sent home on short notice in an attempt to beat any potential travel bans.
“It was kind of an abrupt departure,” Rielly said. “It was a Thursday morning (March 12) and they told me I was leaving tomorrow, go pack your stuff. I was trying to get my ticket booked and I was furiously packing, and I got more stuff while I was there and only had two bags, so I had to leave a few things behind. I went through all my clothes and left some stuff I didn’t really need.”
The DameLigaen is generally considered a step below the top European leagues, such as those in Spain, France and Italy. Rielly is hoping her success with Horsholm will open up possibilities for playing in a stronger league next season.
“With the accolades I earned this year and how the team did, I think I’ll earn some opportunity to maybe move up and play somewhere else,” Rielly said.
“I could not have had a better experience with the coaching staff and the team,” Rielly added about her time with Horsholm. “But part of it for me is experiencing different places and traveling, as well as playing. So I think I’ll be looking to go somewhere else. It’s nothing to do with the experience there, that was wonderful, but I want a new experience.”
The period in which players typically sign with European teams is July and August. It is unknown whether the signing period and 20-21 season will be pushed back as leagues deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
But wherever Rielly’s pro basketball path leads, she’s be grateful for her experience with Horsholm.
“I was able to do everything I set out to go and do, and I think I was put in the right situation to accomplish it,” Rielly said. “It’s a great feeling to be recognized for that award.”