A tall task: Women’s basketball forward becomes URI’s first Estonian student 

Fourth-ranked international recruit reflects on Kingston experience

Anete Adler gets ready to add her Estonian flag to the Memorial Union Atrium. PHOTO CREDIT: Anete Adler

Anete Adler, a freshman at the University of Rhode Island, knew she had a unique opportunity to represent her home country of Estonia as the first Estonian to ever enroll at URI.

“I was surprised, I thought there was at least somebody before me,” she said. “It’s cool to be the first one.”

Adler is one of the many international students recruited to head coach Tammi Reiss’s women’s basketball team. Along with Adler, the team consists of nine players from around the globe, ranging from France, Israel and Canada. 

For every new nation represented by a URI student, a flag is raised in their honor during International Education Week, which took place from Nov. 14-18. Adler’s home flag was raised to the atrium ceiling of the Memorial Union. The blue, black and white flag of Estonia joins over 100 others in representing the University’s diverse student body. 

Another consistent trait of the Rams is having strong character across the board, according to associate head coach Adeniyi Amadou. Amadou, who hails from France himself, stressed the importance of finding not just talent on the court but quality people – like Adler – off the court as well.

“We want to be as diverse as we can in terms of finding quality people,” Amadou said. “Our values are very similar in our core values. The kindness, the humility, the respect for new opportunities that are afforded to her.”

Basketball wasn’t in the picture initially for Adler growing up. Despite being around other sports – having initially tried out volleyball – she first picked up a basketball in fourth grade, when quickly discovering her passion for the game.

“I was trying volleyball, but it really wasn’t for me,” she said. “Eventually, I ended up in basketball, and I really loved the first practice and the first week in basketball, so I ended up staying.”

Adler’s decision to play basketball eventually put her on a global stage. Before joining the Rams this year, she played for Estonia in the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship in 2019 before averaging a double-double on Team G4S Noorteliiga for Estonia-NKML in 2020-21.

Off the court, she had the opportunity to participate in the NBA Academy Women’s Virtual Program in the summer of 2021, a two-month basketball and leadership seminar featuring the top 40 international high school prospects. Despite its limited format, Adler gained valuable experience through the meetings and exercises that she took part in as a part of the program.

Since making the jump to the Ocean State, Adler said she has had to adjust to a different set of rules and norms in American basketball. According to her, there’s less physicality in the U.S., with fouls being happening more than in other parts of the world. She said a defensive stop with a lot of contact that would be considered a great play overseas would likely be deemed illegal in the states.

Despite this, she said her experiences leading up to her time at URI have greatly benefited her during this transition. According to Amadou, each new opportunity allows for a broader experience of the world while providing a much-needed confidence boost as well. With players of Adler’s size and athleticism often being looked at from a physical standpoint, other key attributes are often lost in the shuffle.

“We evaluate them, we judge them, we look at them for what they are, what they appear to be, but inside she’s still a kid,” Amadou said. “So any time she gets invited to such a prestigious event, anytime something like this happens to her, I think it does something for her self-confidence.”

Overall, Adler has enjoyed her experience joining her new teammates, with the team’s beach day being a fond memory from her first days with the program. On the court, Adler has seen some action early on, scoring six points and earning three rebounds in 26 minutes over her first four appearances as a Ram.

As for the newly-displayed Estonian flag in the Union? Adler hasn’t had a chance to see it yet but hopes to see it in its full glory sometime in the near future.