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NBA’s first female scout who has swapped Chicago Bulls for London Lions



“My previous role was so colourful, I really did everything. The Bulls offered me a job as an international scout. It took me two weeks to soul search, to wonder if I was doing it just for the logo. Then I thought, ‘If a 12-year-old Vanja knew you would be offered this job…’ so just shut up. Just go.”

Predictably, as the first female scout in the history of the National Basketball Association, Cernivec was frequently the only woman in all-male environments. She credits the mentoring of Ivica Dukan, the Bulls’ director of international scouting, as invaluable.

“I never felt like my voice was not being heard, they were very open-minded. I called myself ‘gender-blind’ but you just get used to it and it becomes normal, which is so wrong. We have a lot of female colleagues on the marketing and business side on the London Lions and I’m so grateful to them, because they flag things to me which are wrong. I’m so used to being one of the guys, which is a good thing and it’s not a good thing, looking at the big picture and what it means for women in sport.”

This feeds into the sense of mission Cernivec tries to imbue. “I tell the players that we’re not just here to win, we are changing the basketball landscape in the country, so you will have to be donating your time, doing sessions in the community, and they’ve been so open to it. We have to give girls the basketball role models they don’t have right now.”

For now, the focus is on a two-legged EuroCup quarter-final against Turkey’s Melikgazi Kayseri on Feb 22 and 28. Despite a nationwide lack of European pedigree, the Lions are viewed as favourites to progress, but they will need as much support as possible.

“Basketball has been neglected in multiple ways in this country,” Cernivec says. “It’s part of my job to put the sport forward.”

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