Tierney Pfirman has lived a small town girl’s ultimate dream. Local fans packed the gyms to see the record-setting, all-state high school star play and closely followed her career at the University of Maryland that included a trip to the NCAA Final Four. In my travels, I often am asked questions regarding Tierney and what she is doing these days. In what may be a ‘good news/bad news’ scenario she recently took the time to discuss her basketball exploits as she recuperates from a reoccurring injury.
“Two summers ago when I graduated from college I had what they call Hagglers Deformity where the heal bone goes out. They go in and detach your Achilles and shave your bone off and then reattach your Achilles,” Pfirman detailed. “I underwent that surgery the summer before I left for Romania. That was my mistake because I went over before I was ready. This past August I had surgery again to get some scar tissue out and hopefully fix the problem. As far as the recovery goes, I am not really doing anything special right now — just lifting, giving my body a break, and enjoying family time.
“I am hoping to get cleared by the doctor next month and begin to start running again and then make my way back over to Europe for next season.
“I’ll always be grateful for the support people have given me. It means a lot when you have the fans’ support and people come out and watch your games. It makes playing the game in front of so many people that have your back and support you that much more fun.
“At first basketball was just for the fun of the game. My Mom coached, and I would go along when she coached my sister and brother’s teams. I would just go to the gyms and mess around and play. As I eventually saw my own potential, I narrowed down and focused in, and basketball took me a long way. It became an important part of my life.
“After graduating from Maryland, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise. But I loved the game and thought, ‘why not try and continue playing?’ I talked to a few people and began to try and find an agent. Once I found an agent, he found me some teams overseas that were interested in me, and I decided to go try it and see what it was like.”
Tierney plays for ACS Sepsi of Liga Nationala — the top flight of women’s basketball in Romania.
“There are eight teams in the Romanian Division One League. Romania is a big country, and we bus to all the games. Our bus rides were from three hours to thirteen hours depending upon weather and where we were scheduled to go. The league is one of the top two leagues in Europe. So, for a female basketball player, if you are not in the WNBA you want to go to the Romanian League. They have really good players, and it gave me a taste of what it is like over there. Our Romanian season consisted of 38 games.
“On my team, we had six Americans, and each of the other teams had at least two Americans. But this year the rules were changed that teams could only have two foreigners per team because the level of skill of the American players is more advanced compared to the level of the Romanian players.
“I had some trouble adjusting to the language, and I still don’t really understand much. My Romanian teammates knew both Romanian and English so they would translate a lot when we went out to restaurants and stores. I always tried to take one of them with me when we would go out.
“The Romanian teams have between 10 and 15 players depending on how much money the club has and what the salary of each player determined how many players each team has. Our team has eleven players. I went over there playing a 4. Then, in November, they sent our center home and, unfortunately, I became the center for the rest of the season.
“The one thing people told me when I went overseas was ‘don’t get a Serbian coach.’ When I signed the contract and went over, I learned I had a Serbian coach. Sundays were our only off days. That day we would just hang out and recover and perhaps go to the closest mall, which was like a 40-minute ride. Monday through Saturday we had two-a-day practices. Practice would typically be from 10:00 a.m.-noon, than we would have a team lunch and would get back to our apartments by 2:30 p.m. Then we had to be back in the gym by 6:30 p.m. Then you’d come home, eat dinner, and prepare to do it all over again the next day. Not a whole lot of social time. A lot of Netflix and sleep.
“Romania presented a different culture and a different language than I was used to, but I went over there and played the game like I played it at Maryland. Whatever came my way I took it but it was still basketball, and the game didn’t change.
Although injuries dogged her during her Maryland career, it was an experience Tierney will always cherish.
“The goal of every college athlete is to go to the National Championship. Being able to be on a team that qualified for the NCAA’s was a blessing, but to be able to move on and see what it was like was wonderful and something I will always remember.
“When in high school I didn’t really know what to expect regarding the college recruiting process. In junior high and high school people said I was good, but when I played AAU ball in the summers, it opened up a different experience. Then when I started getting letters and phone calls from college coaches, it far exceeded my expectation, as I wasn’t expecting to talk to that many coaches and get as many offers as I did. It took up a lot of time talking to the coaches’ day in and day out and trying to figure everything out.
“That recruiting experience was fun but time-consuming, but I wouldn’t have traded it. It came down to my figuring it out as to what coach I felt was the best fit for my style of play and the college visits I got to experience. I wouldn’t have traded it.”
What began as simply tagging along with Mom has given Tierney Pfirman an experience most athletes only dream about.