Future of Pittsburgh women's hoops depends on her!

When Agnus Berenato was hired from Georgia Tech, it was a message. A message that the University was poised to turn the corner and compete nationally. In order to do this, you must recruit the best. This took Berenato to her old stomping grounds, New Jersey, where she found 6-4 former Russian Jr. National star Viktoria Sholokova.

Viktoria was put on a plane last Jan 20, 2003 by her mother and father, Valeria and Igor, in her native St. Petersburg,Russia. Her destination was Upper Pittsgrove, New Jersey and her host family, the Bowen's. The benefactor in Sholokova's move to the US was Sacred Heart High School, Vineland, NJ and head coach Steve DiPatri.

Although she was only able to play in 8 games during Sacred Heart's run to the Parochial "B" State Title, she played a major role and provided much needed depth. Sacred Heart eventually moved on to the Tournament of Champions, which features the parochial and public league state champions. Sacred Heart was defeated by Marlboro, who featured 3 high-level division 1 prospects.

This season, Sacred Heart has a 20-0 record and are strong contenders to repeat as Parochial "B" state champs. PittInsider recently spoke with Coach DiPatri and Viktoria.

PittInsider interview with Coach Steve Dipatri

How did Viktoria end up at sacred Heart?

"Honestly, she sort of fell in our lap. A friend of the family knew she wanted to play in the US so they suggested she come to Sacred Heart."

Can you describe Viktoria's game?

"She is the most fundamentally sound player I've ever coached. She can play the perimeter. She can handle the ball and bring it up court. And, she has a great low post game."

How did she end up at Pittsburgh?

"Coach Berenato's husband was roommates with our AD. One day Agnus was in the area and stopped by to see her play and was impressed. That was while she was with Georgia Tech. Then, when she went to Pittsburgh, she recruited her there."

How has she adjusted to American basketball?

"She has so much international experience, she is so calm under pressure. We run many complicated schemes here, but she has never had a problem with them. She is a very fast learner."

What is her main strength?

"She is just so flexible with the many things we ask her to do within our system."

Pittinsider interview with Viktoria Sholokova

Obviously you are the most high profile women's basketball recruit in the history of the team. How do you handle the pressure of that?

"I don't think about it. I just play my game."

What are the strengths of your game?

"My ability to play all 5 positions on the court."

Anything you need too improve on?

"Everything. You should always try to improve, or you'll never get better."

Your parents Valeria and Igor are still in Russia. How often do you speak with them?

"I talk to them 2 times a week, I'm trying to get some video tape to them, so they can see me."

What differences are there in American basketball compared to international?

"American game is much faster and physical."

Do you have ambitions of someday playing in the WNBA?

"Yes, I'd like that. I could play in Europe, if that doesn't work."

You played on the Russian Jr. national team. What was that like?

"The Russian team is better than high school, more like college."

What are you going to major in at Pitt?

"I'm not sure, maybe sports management."

Do you plan on going back to Russia?

"No, I don't want to live there."

Have you had any second thoughts about Pitt?

"No. At first it was between Pitt and Vanderbilt. I think I made the right decision for me."

How is coach Agnus?

"I really like her a lot. She is a great person."

Ok Vika, I better let you get to practice. Thank you and good luck the rest of the season, and I can't wait to see you play at Pittsburgh.

"You're welcome and thank you."

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