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India Pagan

By Daniel Dunaief

Learning a new basketball system was challenging: learning German was even harder.

For India Pagan, who speaks English and Spanish, communicating with her coach and fans in her first experience in professional basketball after graduating with a Master’s from Stony Brook University proved difficult.

Early in the season, playing for BC Pharmaserv in Marburg, Germany, head coach Patrick Unger spoke to her in English, but he’s “translating it in his head in German,” Pagan said. Sometimes, she took what he said the wrong way.

When Unger said something, Pagan recalled that she “took it in a personal way, which make me get in my head,” she said.

After speaking with Unger, she cleared the air, which helped her understand more of what he wanted.

Pagan lived and worked a continent away from her family in New London, Connecticut, who had been regular visitors and supporters during her college playing days as a member of the Seawolves.

Moises Pagan, India’s father, was grateful for the opportunity to connect with his daughter electronically. “Thank God for FaceTime,” he said. “That helped.”

Off the court, Pagan adjusted to life in a different culture while living in an apartment with three teammates. She and her teammates had some of the typical issues that affect college students who move in with strangers when they first start living life apart from their families.

Some of her teammates were more attentive to cleaning their dishes or buying necessities.

One of Pagan’s biggest frustrations was that she likes to sleep late. Some of her teammates would knock on doors and ask for something in the morning.

“One thing I learned is that when I get another roommate, I’m really going to set boundaries” so that she can get the rest she feels she needs, Pagan said.

In addition, Pagan, whose parents grew up in Puerto Rico and who has a strong cultural and national identity tied to the island territory, found it difficult to purchase the kind of foods she knows she enjoys eating.

Pagan’s parents Moises and Carmen sent their daughter a care package filled with spices and packaged foods. The only problem: it took 28 days to arrive. The parcel “sat in Frankfurt for eight days,” Moises Pagan said. He called the post office in the United States, and representatives said they also saw that the package wasn’t moving, but that there was “nothing they could do.” When the food items finally arrived, India brought a teammate who spoke German with her, to translate.

Amid local and global health concerns, Pagan said the team had its share of illnesses. In her first week in Germany, she was sick. “You have to be kidding me,” she recalled thinking. “I’m sick already and we weren’t even playing games.”

Pagan got the first week off. After that, she said, players on her team passed along a few colds, which weren’t Covid but were still unpleasant.

On the court

While Pagan had an opportunity to play and continue to develop her game, the team didn’t make the playoffs and was heading into the final few weeks of the season with a losing record. “We know we’re a good team,” Pagan said. “The majority of games, we lost by a couple of points. We never found our rhythm this season.”

Pagan went from helping lead the Stony Brook women’s basketball team through successful seasons to debuting on a professional team that struggled to put wins together. “Basketball will always be fun, but losing so many games by five points got really frustrating and obviously isn’t for anyone,” she said.

In addition to receiving ongoing and positive support from her parents, India Pagan also remained in touch with Ashley Langford, who coached Pagan during her final year at Stony Brook.

“It’s always great hearing from [Coach Langford],” said Pagan. Langford reminded Pagan that she’s a great player, that she should attack and play her game, and should believe in herself. “Small phrases like that” really helped, Pagan said.

Langford said she tries to remind all first-year professional players that there’s a learning curve and that there will be moments they don’t enjoy. “What I tried to tell India, too, is that it’ll get better and stick with it,” she said.

Langford also highlighted how the officiating is different. Players might get called for travels more or less often in one league. She urged Pagan to dominate, which, the coach said, would make it difficult to take her out of the lineup.

“You’ve got to make him play you,” Langford urged.

Personal growth

Pagan felt she grew as a basketball player and as a person. She described the German style of play as “quicker and more physical.”

When a shot went up, her coach wanted everyone to go for a rebound, rather than sending one or two guards back to protect against a fast break on the other end.

“In some respects, I am a better basketball player,” she explained. “I learned some new moves and learned a lot about my game.”

During the season, Pagan and two of her teammates couldn’t go home for Christmas. They visited with their head coach and his family, which included three children. “I was thankful for the family I got to spend time with over here,” Pagan said. She also visited bigger cities, which were over an hour and a half from where she lived, as often as she could.

When she returns home, Pagan is looking forward to visiting with family, eating crab legs and taking a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts.

She has not decided where she’ll play next year and is exploring various options, including joining a Puerto Rican league.

India Pagan at Stony Brook University with her parents at graduation.

By Daniel Dunaief

With sneakers on her feet and a ball in her hand, India Pagan will circle the globe in a landmark year.

India Pagan
Photo from tStony Brook University

First, she earned a Master’s Degree in coaching at Stony Brook University, completing a five-year stint in which she also received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. After a brief journey home to New London, Connecticut to visit with her family and celebrate, she and her family took a long-awaited cruise to Honduras and Mexico. 

Now, the 6-foot,1-inch power forward, who completed a distinguished basketball career at Stony Brook, is practicing with the Puerto Rican National team, with whom she also traveled to the Olympics last year in Tokyo. Pagan and the team will travel to Serbia for a scrimmage and then to Australia to play in the World Cup.

But that’s not the end of her journey. After the World Cup, Pagan, 23, will fulfill a professional goal, as she signed a one-year contract to play professional basketball in Germany with the BC Pharmaserv Dolphins in Marburg, Germany. North of Frankfurt and east of Dusseldorf, Marburg is home to the Marburger Schloss (Marburg castle) and numerous medieval churches.

“It’s always been my dream to play overseas, so it’s a dream come true,” said Pagan, who is listed as a starter for the Division 1 German team. “To get paid to do what I love is really cool.”

The reality of becoming a professional basketball player started to sink in after she told family members she had signed a contract. When she shared the news with her mother Carmen Pagan, her mom “flipped out,” Pagan recalled. Her sisters Melody and Taina and family friends were similarly excited and “freaked out” about Pagan becoming a professional basketball player.

Reaching such a dream requires familial “teamwork,” said Carmen Pagan. “Any family member that is part of that group, everybody has to be committed to be there and support the child in different ways,” including emotionally, financially and academically.

When Pagan started playing basketball at the age of 11, the family made a “huge commitment” that included missing a “lot of birthdays, and a lot of family functions. We were always on the road, traveling throughout the United States” said India’s father Moises Pagan, who credits his daughter’s willingness to seize any opportunity to play as a catalyst for her basketball career.

One Friday night years ago, India received a call about a high school showcase in Queens. Despite heavy rush hour traffic and a five-hour commitment, she “didn’t even twitch,” he recalled. She said, “Dad, I want to go.” That’s where Stony Brook’s previous basketball head coach Caroline McCombs, who led the team from 2014 to 2021, saw her play.

Pagan is one of a few former Seawolf women to become a professional basketball player, joining Kaela Hilaire and Shania “Shorty” Johnson, who have also played in Europe.

Professional connection

After a solid showcase following her season, Pagan received numerous offers from agents to represent her. Choosing an agent was “like picking a school all over again,” she said. “I just had to see who was the right fit.”

Pagan selected Stephanie Stanley, president and founder of Merit Management Group who also represents one of Pagan’s favorite WNBA players, Washington Mystics Guard Natasha Cloud. That, however, was only one of several reasons she chose Stanley. The down-to-Earth Pagan thought Stanley was “like an old auntie. She had me laughing.”

Stanley, whose clients sometimes call “Momma Steph,” said she appreciated Pagan because she “likes players who hustle, play hard and look like they’re having fun out there on the court.”

Stanley also offered advice about the kinds of things to be prepared for when playing overseas. A team told one of Stanley’s clients they would provide transportation. When the player arrived, the team gave her a bicycle. “Lesson learned,” laughed Stanley. The player, however, realized that everyone used bicycles to get around in the country and appreciated the chance to lose a few pounds by pedaling back and forth to practice.

Another client had a choice of prepared meals or a financial allowance for food. The player sent Stanley pictures of food neither of them could identify. Stanley said these rookie contracts cover the cost of living and playing basketball. Rookies are “going to learn how to budget,” she said.

In the bigger picture, Stanley said the overseas market, particularly with Americans no longer comfortable playing in Russia amid the imprisonment and nine-year sentence of Brittney Griner, is having a “rough year.” Players who might have played for a top tier Russian team are heading to Turkey, Italy, Spain or France. The dislocation is affecting leagues around the world at every level. “Any player that signed now is impressive,” Stanley said. “It’s a rough year.”

Stanley added that rookies typically sign for one year in any league as players look to advance to more competitive leagues where they might also earn more money.

Pagan, who will be sharing an apartment with three other players when she arrives in Germany a day or so before the team’s first game, is excited for the opportunity and feels like the team and coach Patrick Unger, who lived in the United States for a year, support her. Unger has reached out to her on FaceTime. 

At the same time, the team, which consists of several German players, includes players who speak English. The team pays for utilities, housing and transportation and is providing money for groceries.

While Pagan is excited to get on the floor and start playing with her new teammates, she knows she needs to contribute. “I have to prove myself,” she said.

SBU contributions

India Pagan
Photo from the Pagan family

If Pagan finds the same kind of success in professional basketball that she had at the college level, she could be starting a promising career. She ranks eighth on the all-time scoring list at Stony Brook University, second in career field goal percentage and eighth in total rebounds.

Ashley Langford, head coach of a Seawolves team that won the America East conference championship last year in her debut season, was pleased for Pagan. “It’s awesome,” Langford said. “It’s what she’s been striving for her whole career.”

Langford appreciated the contributions on and off the court that Pagan made and the work her former basketball stand out put into enhancing her game. On the court, Pagan was “always really skilled,” said Langford. In the last year, she asserted herself more physically, moving closer to the basket and drawing contact from defenders, Langford said. She enjoyed watching Pagan show emotion on the court, flexing after she created contact and heading to the free throw line for a chance at a conventional three pointer.

Off the court, Langford admired the leadership role Pagan took in welcoming newer teammates, showing them around campus, offering advice about college athletics and helping them feel like a part of the Seawolves family and basketball program.  “That’s not me or anyone else telling her, ‘You need to connect with freshman.’ That’s her doing it on her own. That’s who she is. She wants everyone to do well,” said Langford.

Pagan encouraged her new teammates to snack because players don’t always have time for a structured meal and encouraged them to “use academic advisors wisely,” she said. “They’re there for a reason.”

While Pagan is excited about the next stage in her life, she is grateful for the time and opportunities she had at Stony Brook. “Eventually, that chapter had to end,” she said. The Stony Brook team will “always be a family.”

Growing fame

Pagan, who joined the Puerto Rican women’s team at the delayed 2020 Olympics last year in Tokyo, has started to develop an international fan following. Recently, she was at a WalMart in Puerto Rico and someone walked up to her and asked to take a picture with her. While Pagan was born and raised in Connecticut, she plays for Puerto Rico because both her parents are from Puerto Rico.

She  was also recently eating at a Chili’s restaurant with her teammates when an interview she did appeared on TV screens around the restaurant. “The waiter was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s you,’” Pagan said. Her teammates enjoyed the excitement.

Pagan has also received and responded to messages in German on social media. Once her professional season starts in Germany, Pagan will be far from home, where her parents can’t take the Bridgeport or Orient Point ferry to come see her the way they did at Stony Brook, a place the entire family still feels at home.

Indeed, one of the more emotionally challenging moments during her world-traveling basketball journey occurred when she played in Chile for three weeks. At 17, Pagan found it difficult to be so far from family, Moises Pagan recalled. That experience prepared her for her current plan to travel to Germany. “It makes the transition [to Germany] so much easier,” he said. FaceTime and a commitment to basketball have allowed Pagan to focus on her sport. “She just wants to make everyone proud, playing the game she loves,” he added

Huntington Station luge competitor Matt Mortinson, on top, competes with teammate Jayson Terdiman in the Winterberg, Germany November 2017. Photo from USA Luge

After athletes from around the world raced across and flew over ice and snow in Beijing, much of it manufactured, some Olympians are likely to need to adjust to a return to their everyday life.

India Pagan, right, at last year’s summer Olympics opening ceremony. Photo Pagan

Two-time Olympian Matthew Mortensen, who competed in Sochi, Russia, in 2014 and in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018 in the luge, suggested that the competitors coming back needed to give themselves time to settle back into their routines.

While he cautioned that he couldn’t speak for all athletes, he described how “you are going so hard for so long during any season. One capped by the Olympic Games brings even more adrenaline and mental stress. Once it was over for me, I just felt emotionally and mentally drained.”

Mortensen, who grew up in Huntington Station and now lives in Connecticut, spent March and April of each Olympic year focusing on his physical and mental recovery.

As with each Olympics, the 2022 Games in Beijing had its own storylines and challenges, as American athletes traveled across the world without support networks who couldn’t attend because of strict COVID rules.

“With COVID restrictions and protocols, lack of spectators, a diplomatic ban, differences in how long athletes could stay at the games after their [events] had finished, etc., I couldn’t help but feel like the athletes at this Olympics were not getting the ‘full experience,’” Mortensen explained in an email. “That being said, I’m sure it was still wonderful for them.”

Indeed, Stony Brook University graduate student India Pagan, who is a stand-out starting basketball player and is earning her master’s degree, attended her first games in Tokyo as a representative of the first Puerto Rican basketball team to compete in the Olympics last summer.

“It crossed my mind, what would these [games] be like if we didn’t have all these COVID restrictions, how much more fun it would have been,” she said.

Still, Pagan, who had routine COVID and temperature tests and had to show her badge regularly, called the experience a “blast.”

While Pagan said she, too, was “sad” when the Olympics were over, she said she was “thankful” she got to participate and appreciated the reception she received when she returned, which included a parade in her native New London, Connecticut.

“I’m an Olympian now,” she said. “It’s a different life. People see the tattoo on my leg, and they say, ‘Can I take a picture with you?’”

Russian skater

Mortensen and Pagan said they both were well aware of some of the storylines that dominated the Beijing games.

One of the biggest narratives involved 15-year-old Russian skating sensation Kamila Valieva. After the team event, in which the Russian Olympic Committee won a gold medal while the United States earned a silver, Valieva tested positive for a banned substance.

The International Olympic Committee allowed her to compete in the individual skating event, where she was first after the short program, but fell in the long program and finished in fourth, behind two of her teammates.

Luge competitor Matthew Mortensen, on right in photo, with teammate Jayson Terdiman in 2018. Left photo from USA Luge

Like many other athletes and commentators, Mortensen believed Valieva shouldn’t have been competing after her positive test.

“There has to be a hard line on doping, especially when it comes to the Olympic Games,” Mortensen wrote. “The adults around her let her down and the Court of Arbitration for Sport made the wrong decision.”

He said he couldn’t imagine competing knowing that her competitors felt like she was a cheater. He expected that the mental trauma she experienced would be “long lasting.”

Pagan said Team USA officials warn athletes to be careful about anything they take that might lead to a positive drug test.

“You never know what type of substances could be illegal,” Pagan said. “You have to be very careful.”

Love for the Games

Mortensen said he watched the Games every day, getting up early to support his former teammates live.

“I still love the Olympics and everything that the Games represent,” he wrote in an email. He finds them “fascinating” and enjoys cheering on Team USA.

In addition to lasting memories, Mortensen and Pagan both appreciate the camaraderie and friendships that came from participating in a marquee athletic event on the world stage.

“In our sport, we find ourselves competing against most of the same athletes for our entire career,” Mortensen wrote. “We travel together, hang out together, play sports together and just spend a lot of time around each other in general over the years,” which helps build enduring friendships.

Just hours after the competition, Pagan said she and other Olympians interacted in the game room.

“We do everything we can for our country” and then they connect with other people who are doing the same, she said.

Pagan said she has stayed in touch with several members of the South African track team and with a wrestler from Australia.

One of her new friends asked her if she thought she’d be able to see each other in person again.

“Maybe life will bring us back together,” Pagan said. “It’s cool that we’re still friends.”

Stony Brook University's played in the summer Olympics with Team Puerto Rico's women's basketball team. Photo from India Pagan

Stony Brook University’s India Pagan, competing in the Olympics for Puerto Rico, took several shots against China in the preliminary round of the basketball tournament, but none of them went in.

India Pagan at the summer Olympics opening ceremony. Photo from India Pagan

Against Belgium, the 6-foot-1-inch forward finally put the ball through the hoop, something she’d done so frequently at Stony Brook that she scored over 1,000 points as a Seawolf.

“I remember the first one I made” at the Olympics, said Pagan. “I didn’t have to stress anymore. I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Pagan, who was on Puerto Rico’s first women’s Olympic basketball team, scored two baskets and sank two free throws, scoring six points in that game.

Despite the challenges and restrictions created by the Delta variant of COVID-19 and the three losses the Puerto Rican team had in games against China, Belgium and Australia, Pagan had plenty of reasons to smile as she enjoyed everything from the opening ceremonies to taking selfies with some of the best athletes in the world to some limited sightseeing.

After a lengthy journey to the other side of the world, Pagan cheered her way through an opening ceremony full of familiar pageantry, but devoid of its customary shouting spectators.

“It was surreal to me,” Pagan said. “I watched this on TV a couple of years ago. Walking with the flag, with the whole delegation of Puerto Rico, seeing the stage, the torch, the dances, the acts of music, everything, it was just so beautiful.”

Pagan said she cried three or four times during the ceremonies.

Behind the scenes, Pagan said the time spent waiting for the ceremonies to begin and the hours on their feet amid the excitement took their toll.

“By the end of the night, all of our backs hurt, our feet hurt,” she laughed. “Thankfully, we didn’t have practice the next day, so we had a little time to recover.”

Around the games, Pagan soaked in the atmosphere and reveled in the moment on one of the world’s largest, albeit emptiest, athletic stages.

One of the big stories to come out of the Olympics involved American gymnast Simone Biles, who pulled out of most of the competition amid concerns about her mental health and her ability to get her bearings while flying and twisting through the air.

“We understood the mental health aspects” of Biles’s decision, Pagan said. “She’s got to do what’s best for her. We did feel for her.”

Pagan said the Puerto Rican basketball team met with their coach, who told them they could speak with a doctor or a psychologist if they needed support.

Pagan missed her family and friends but didn’t need those mental health services during her time in Tokyo.

Pagan was thrilled to run into several superstars in their sports, taking selfies with National Basketball Association star Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics, and with Spanish basketball sensations Marc Gasol, who currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers and his brother Pau, who retired from the NBA in 2019 after an 18-year career. She also ran into Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic.

“Seeing those people was cool for me,” Pagan said.

Pagan takes a photo with Spanish basketball sensation Pau Gasol. Photo from India Pagan

Everyone had to wear face shields in the dining hall which made conversations, even among teammates, challenging.

“It was tough to interact” while she was eating, Pagan said.

She did, however, have the opportunity to speak and play games with other masked athletes in a recreational area. Pagan and teammates Jada Stinson and Jacqueline Benitez visited with athletes from the South African soccer and track teams, and several teams from Ireland, Italy and Iran while playing table tennis, pool and darts.

During her stay in Tokyo, Pagan recalled the lives of two people she and her family recently lost. She wrote the names of Tatiana Mayas, one of her closest childhood friends, and Gloria Sotomayor, a friend of her mother’s, on a white ribbon and pinned them on a memorial tree.

While the athletes couldn’t explore Tokyo on their own or travel much outside the Olympic village, they took a bus tour to Mt. Fuji, which, at 12,380 feet, is the tallest mountain in Japan.

“If we got off the bus and the [International Olympic Committee] found out, they would have kicked us out of the Olympics,” Pagan said.

Pagan remained appreciative of an opportunity she didn’t take for granted, especially since she has no guarantee that she or the Puerto Rican team will return for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“I was ready for anything and I was grateful for anything,” Pagan said.

In addition to returning with a collection of memories, photos and selfies, Pagan brought back numerous souvenirs for herself and her family.

She purchased a letterman jacket that she said she “had to have,” because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

She also purchased shoes, shirts, key chains, umbrellas, pins and notebooks.

“It was like Christmas,” she laughed. The gifts were worth the money, as her family’s faces “lit up” when she produced their presents.

During her Olympics, she appreciated the outpouring of support for her and for the team.

“My phone has never blown up as much as it did when I was at the Olympics,” said Pagan, who is returning to Stony Brook to earn her master’s this fall and to use a fifth year of eligibility the National Collegiate Athletic Association granted to athletes amid the pandemic.

She left North America with 6,000 Instagram followers and returned with 11,000.

One of the first things she did when she returned, after sharing presents, crying and catching up with family, was to get behind the wheel.

“I couldn’t wait to drive my car and be free and go wherever I wanted to, instead of being restrained and told to stay in one place or being locked up in a room,” Pagan said.

She hopes the team will return to the next Olympics in Paris in 2024.

“Hopefully, we’ll be back,” she said. “This experience will definitely help us grow as a program. We’re on our way up.”

As for what’s next, she plans to rest and recover from the exhausting and exhilarating trip and to add the Olympic rings tattoo to her leg.

Pagan appreciates the opportunity to play a game she loves at the Olympic level.

“It was a blessing and an honor,” Pagan said.

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India Pagan playing basketball for Stony Brook University. Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

India Pagan has a tattoo of the outline of Puerto Rico on her right arm. The image has two stars on it, where Hatillo and Mayagüez are located.

India Pagan practices with Puerto Rico’s Olympic team. Photo from the Pagan family

The connection to Puerto Rico for Pagan, a graduate of Stony Brook University who is now in a master’s program, runs much more than skin deep.

The 6-foot, 1-inch basketball star, who helped Stony Brook win back-to-back America East conference championships, is representing the island at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, joining the first women’s basketball team from Puerto Rico to compete at the games.

A talented forward who plays in the low post area near the basket, Pagan, who became one of only 18 Seawolves to score over 1,000 points in her career and set a school record last year for the highest shooting percentage for a season, is the second-youngest member on a team Puerto Ricans are calling “the 12 warriors.”

When she saw pictures of herself on the main Puerto Rican Olympic pages on Instagram and Facebook confirming she’d made the team, Pagan took screenshots and called her parents Moises, who was born in Mayagüez, and Carmen, born in Hatillo.

The excitement was palpable over the phone, as her parents “were both yelling” with delight, she said.

“I’m so thankful to be Puerto Rican,” Pagan said. “I say that every day.”

Indeed, Pagan, who spoke Spanish in her house growing up, traveled regularly to Puerto Rico to see her large and supportive extended family.

Her mother Carmen, who was a competitive runner when she was younger, wanted to give her daughter an opportunity to compete on a larger stage she herself didn’t have growing up as the 17th of 18 children.

A runner whose floor-length braided hair was so long that she had to pin it inside her shirt to prevent false starts, Carmen Pagan didn’t have the chance to compete against other athletes from around the world in her specialty, the 400- and 800-meter races.

“That’s why we went the extra mile with India,” mother said.

India Pagan playing for SBU. Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

“We are accomplishing our dreams through her,” Moises Pagan added. “She exceeded our expectations when it came to basketball.”

Soon after learning of her opportunity to represent Puerto Rico, India Pagan found out that the athletes would attend the Olympics under strict restrictions and would play in empty stadiums, to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Her family, who has already seen Pagan play in Italy among other places, canceled their travel plans.

India Pagan still feels fortunate to be at the games and to have the long-distance support of people she considers family in Puerto Rico; New London, Connecticut, where she was born and raised; and on Long Island.

Stony Brook “is my family and the girls are my sisters,” she said. That includes two of her close friends on the Stony Brook team, Courtney Furr and Leighah-Amori Wool, who cried when Pagan left and are staying in touch across the world.

Moises Pagan, who is 6 feet, 5 inches tall and played one year of semiprofessional basketball in Puerto Rico, recalls how his daughter kept his size-15-feet shoebox filled with acceptances from colleges. India Pagan visited Stony Brook last and decided within moments of her arrival that she wanted to be a Seawolf.

Her parents made her wait a day to decide. A day later, she took the final women’s basketball scholarship.

Her parents felt the same connection to the team, often traveling with home-cooked food for the players, who called them “Ma” and “Pa.”

Moises cooked around 40 empanadas for the team, while Carmen contributed a chicken-and-rice dish and meatballs.

“We like to give back to the team and the coaching staff,” Moises Pagan said. “They’re our extended family.”

Despite the connection India Pagan felt at Stony Brook, she wasn’t initially prepared to stay for the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes amid the pandemic.

Speaking to her new coach Ashley Langford, Pagan changed her mind.

Langford is thrilled for the experience Pagan will have at the Olympics. She told her new coach how much more physical the Olympic players are than the collegiate competitors.

For Pagan, various women have served as inspirations and role models.

She admires plus-size model Ashley Graham’s confidence and appreciates her ability to represent a group of women often excluded in modeling.

India Pagan at 13 years old. Photo from the Pagan family

Pagan also literally and physically looks up to American basketball star Brittney Griner. At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, Griner is also not the typical woman in society.

While Pagan said COVID remains in the back of her mind, she expressed confidence in the health protocols designed to protect athletes and area residents.

Even before reaching the Olympic Village, Pagan described how each floor has security. The team isn’t allowed to leave the hotel unless they are attending practice.

“We wake up, eat breakfast, go to practice and come back,” she said. “The protocols are extreme. They want to protect the athletes.”

Pagan’s parents said they remain concerned for their daughter’s health, although they feel reassured by safety measures that include seeing the sights of Tokyo without getting off the bus.

While the flights to Tokyo took over 23 hours, which makes the limited travel and other opportunities disappointing, Carmen Pagan said her daughter and the rest of the team are focused on making the most of their Olympic opportunity. The team “is there to play their hearts out for Puerto Rico,” the mother said.

Langford sees India Pagan as a winner, as she is “representing our university and women’s basketball. Regardless of the outcome, she’s already won. This is an amazing accomplishment.”

In addition to the memories from her Olympic experience, Pagan is looking forward to getting a tattoo of the five Olympic rings on her body.

The historic Puerto Rico opener is against China July 27.

While the Pagans won’t be able to watch their daughter compete in Tokyo in person, they are likely to gather with extended family, where everyone will “bring a dish,” Moises Pagan said. “Let the games begin!”

India Pagan shot 66.7 percent from the field and led the Seawolves in scoring both weekend games.

WEST HARTFORD, CT. — The Stony Brook women’s basketball team produced a sweeping success on Saturday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 31. The Seawolves swept back-to-back games against host Hartford with a 62-49 win on Sunday.

India Pagan continued a big scoring weekend. She backed up an 18-point performance on Saturday with 19 points on Sunday. She combined to shoot 16-for-24 on the weekend. 

The Seawolves improved to 10-4 overall and 8-2 in America East and ran their winning streak to a season-high five straight games.

Stony Brook stands in second place, a game behind Maine.

Nairimar Vargas-Reyes grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to open a six-point lead in the second quarter. Asiah Dingle then produced a steal, which ultimately resulted in a layup from Pagan and 21-13 advantage. The Seawolves opened their first double-digit lead on a pair of free throws from Hailey Zeise with 3:42 remaining until halftime. Dingle contributed 12 points, four rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block.

“Back-to-back games on the road are definitely challenging,” coach Caroline McCombs said. “I was proud of our ability to lock in defensively when we were struggling to make jump shots. India really stepped up for us this weekend, and it was good to see her in that flow.”