The Sun star talks about life in Korea

Where in the World is... Taj McWilliams-Franklin?

Terrence Vacarro/NBAE/Getty Images
January 20, 2006 - Actually talking to Connecticut Sun forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin is a little bit of a challenge these days. That is because the All-Star is currently playing in Korea, half a world away (more like 15 hours ahead). But because South Korea sounds so very different, we emailed her a bunch of questions and let her answer them on her own. No surprise, but we were still able to find out some cool things.

Taj is no stranger to overseas travel (she has been to Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Vatican City and Yugoslavia to either visit or play), but as a member of the Ansan Shinhan Bank S-Birds, the veteran forward is making her first extended visit to Korea. Her husband is currently serving in the military and is either on the verge of being deployed to Iraq or is already on his way to the Gulf region.

More About... South Korea
CountryRepublic of Korea
Total Area38,023.34 sq mi
Population 47,904,370 (July 2001 census.)
LanguagesKorean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
Literacy98.0% total, 99.3% male, 96.7% female (1995 est.)
ReligionsChristian 49%, Buddhist 47%, Confucianist 3%, Shamanist, Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way), and other 1%
Life Expectancy70.97 male, 78.74 female (2001 est.)
Government Typerepublic
Currency1 South Korean won (W) = 100 chun (theoretical)
GDP (per capita)$16,100 (2000 est.)
Industryelectronics, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel, textiles, clothing, footwear, food processing
Agriculturerice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish
Arable Land19%
Natural Resourcescoal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
With the rest of her family back in the States, one of the advantages to playing in Korea is the short season, which lasts from January to February (playoffs go into March). That is why other stars like Washington's Alana Beard and Indiana's Tamika Catchings are playing in the same league. But thing she misses most about the WNBA, and the United States in general, are the fans and the shopping

"Time away from family is during the holidays is probably the hardest thing about playing overseas," McWilliams-Franklin said. "I miss Ashja. She is a hoot," Taj said. "I miss just visiting someone in every city i go to."

However, Taj will be the first to admit that the experience has already been quite different than anything she has experienced in her years of playing professional basketball. She has yet to really venture out on her own as she has a full-time translator, a driver and does not speak the language. When asked about the one thing she missed most that she forgot to pack, she said all she needed was sour patch kids, which are probably hard to find across the globe.

However, she has tried the local Seafood soup, and is already a fan. Of course, her team employs professional chefs to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, so it's not like she's too far out of her comfort zone.

Perhaps losing track of her mom during a shopping trip to Milan several years back made her more cautious and less likely to venture out, but not bringing any family or friends along for support or companionship enables her to focus on basketball. Yet, she is still a superstar there and people always ask her how she compares playing in Korea compared to WNBA.

The Connecticut Sun have advanced to the WNBA Finals the past two seasons thanks, in large part, to the play of Taj, who was an All-Star again in 2005. And with McWilliams-Franklin staying in shape in the offseason and competing against fellow All-Stars in Korea, look for the Sun to make a strong push to return to the playoffs and take that final step.