By Gianna AddarioStaff Writer
The Salem News
---- — Golden opportunities have a way of presenting themselves when you least expect them to.
In this instance, former Masconomet basketball star Caroline Stewart, after graduating from Boston University earlier this spring, received a phone call with an offer to play overseas in Northern Ireland. At the same time, she could earn her master's degree in business.
Needless to say, the 22-year-old former Terrier jumped at the opportunity.
Stewart will play hoop as a member of the University of Ulster women's basketball team. She'll also lace 'em up for a professional team, the Ulster Rockets.
"I knew I wasn't done playing yet," Stewart said.
"My college coach (Kelly Greenberg) called me and said the people at the university contacted her, asking if I would be interested in getting my master's and playing. They laid everything out on the table with what they had to offer ... and it seemed too good to be true."
With a tireless work ethic and willingness to play more basketball, Stewart couldn't think of a better way to continue her postgraduate career.
A born leader, Stewart was a BU captain for three seasons. She finished with 737 career points in 122 games for the Terriers and is fourth in school history with 791 rebounds. During her final season on Commonwealth Avenue, she started in all 32 games and averaged a career best 7.8 points per game and 8.4 rebounds a contest while recording four double-doubles.
The 6-foot power forward hit the 1,000 point and rebound mark during her senior season at Masconomet in 2008, when she was named the Cape Ann League's MVP. Stewart found herself as more of a role player when she entered college on full athletic scholarship, but quickly grew as one the Terriers' leading rebounders.
After helping the Terriers to the postseason three times in the last four years, Stewart's senior season ended with a 67-56 loss to St. Joseph’s in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament last March.
Though she isn't the only American headed over to Northern Ireland (two American men are embarking on a similar journey), Stewart recently found out she's the country's first female scholar-athlete.
"I will be playing for two teams (and) will be very busy with getting my master's," Stewart said. "I'll also be working for a program called Sports Changes Life, where I'll be coaching and working with at-risk youth. So I'm very excited about that, as well."
Established in 2006, the Ulster Rockets play out of Belfast and are part of the Irish Women's Superleague.
Stewart hasn't figured out all of the logistics just yet, but has already made the trek over to Europe as her first semester has officially begun.
"I don't know much about the coaches or the workout plan, but I do know that I will be doing a lot of coaching youth kids," Stewart said. "My contract is very thick and involves all the specifics of my time over there. They'll be paying for my education, my living expenses and travel. I'll also be receiving a weekly stipend."
This isn't a permanent move overseas for the Topsfield native; Stewart will return home next June when the second semester ends. Until then, she's looking forward to getting back into the swing of things on the hardwood.
"I'm excited about the people and new culture," Stewart added, "Everyone I've talked to already has been so welcoming and kind. I can't wait to get back into playing and working with the young kids."