March 31, 2023

From Buffalo to Kuwait

By B&SC Blog Team

From Buffalo to Kuwait

Alissa Johnson had some high aspirations for her post-collegiate career after Bryant & Stratton College. But what she didn’t expect was that her journey would take her to the other side of the planet to play professional basketball.

Alissa’s basketball journey started at Mercyhurst Northeast, a two-year Catholic liberal arts college in Erie, Pennsylvania. It was there that she gained the attention of Bryant & Stratton College’s women’s basketball coach, Brittnee Perry, when Alissa’s tenure at Mercyhurst was near completion. “I had a couple of teams reach out to me,” said Alissa. “But Coach Britt was the coach that I stayed in contact with the most. I felt more comfortable with her. We talked a lot about the goals that I wanted to accomplish, so that’s how I based my decision.”

That decision wasn’t necessarily as easy one for Alissa, due primarily to the fact that it was the inaugural year for Bryant & Stratton’s women’s basketball team at the Buffalo, N.Y. campus. “I was definitely hesitant because I knew that it was going to be the first year for the women’s team, but Coach Britt and I had a really good talk and she made me feel more secure about going there,” added Alissa.

Alissa quickly learned that she had made the right choice in attending Bryant & Stratton. “My first year was amazing,” said Alissa. “I met a lot of great people in the community, and I had great coaches. I was able to be part of the First Team All American Team and I was able to have a really good season.”

Coach Perry was equally enthused about Alissa’s decision to join Bryant & Stratton College’s Bobcats. “Alissa brought heart,” said Perry. “She was a domineering player and was one of the players to help set the bar for any players that came after. She made the first year special and was a pleasure to have coached her.”

As her collegiate career was coming to an end, Alissa had to decide what life would be like after school. “In my senior year, I began to wonder what was next,” said Alissa. “I told Coach Britt that if an opportunity to play overseas came up, that I would take it, but at the time, my grandma was getting older, and she didn’t have a lot of people to help take care of her. So, I honestly was going to stop playing after Bryant & Stratton.”

At a Crossroads in Life

Alissa earned her Bachelors of Business Administration Degree in General Management in 2022, but her passion lay in psychology. She decided to continue to grad school to receive a master’s in psychology while continuing to look after her grandmother. That was until she received a call from her father letting her know that she had another option. “It was just so out of nowhere,” said Alissa. “I randomly got a call from my dad, and he asked if I’d still like to play overseas for an international FIBA basketball league in Kuwait. A couple of days later, an agent reached out to me, telling me that they had this opportunity for me.” It turned out that her father had been receiving calls for years with requests for Alissa to play overseas, but he was waiting for the right time and allowing her to stay focused.

Alissa was faced with a difficult decision, one made even more difficult by the fact that she had just landed a job as an applied behavior analysis counselor working with children. However, approximately one hour after she received the call from the agent, she received another call with news that her grandmother was in the hospital, and the prognosis was not good.

“I feel like my grandma is like a superhero,” said Alissa. “This was not the first time she had been in that situation.” It was ultimately her grandmother that helped her decide what course of action to take. “She just told me, ‘If you want to be a counselor, be a counselor, but if you want to play basketball, go play basketball and make a lot of money.’ It just made me feel good inside, and that was the support that I needed.”

Travel Anxiety

Alissa found herself a bit nervous when it came time to actually travel to Kuwait. “I hadn’t been on a plane very much, so it was pretty nerve-wracking,” said Alissa. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m really going to a different country. I’m already on the plane, and there’s no turning back now.’ I just prayed and tried to keep a clear head and tried not to think any negative thoughts.”

Alissa was met at the airport by a representative from the organization, and although she had been prepped by a second-year American on the team, she still found the experience of arriving in a foreign land to be intimidating. “It’s a whole new country, so people are looking at you because they know you’re not from here. I was so nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous. I just breathed in and out and tried to make it seem like I knew where I was going.”

Culture Shock

Perhaps the biggest adjustment Alissa had to make was living in a Muslim country. “It’s very strict,” she said. “It’s 80 degrees right now, but if I go to the grocery store, I’ll have to put on a jacket because the women have to cover up. My teammates and I went into the grocery store wearing basketball shorts, and they told us we couldn’t wear them inside. We tried telling them that we were athletes and that we weren’t trying to offend them. Dealing with that aspect of the culture has been the biggest shock.”

Alissa also took some time adjusting to the Kuwaiti cuisine, as well as simply being away from home. “I actually got sick my first week here,” she said. “I’m a very picky eater, and their food didn’t really sit well with me. I was also very homesick. But I’m living with another American, and as time went on, we tried to take in the culture as much as we could, so it’s gotten easier.”

Taking to the Court

As far as the basketball team was concerned, Alissa found that there has been an adjustment period as well. “They were actually very excited for us to be here, because we’re their first American players, but it’s been hard to communicate, as only one or two of them speak English,” said Alissa. “We’ve had to use Google translate. It’s been hard to talk to them if there is an issue because they don’t understand what we’re saying. We try to get the other teammates that know English to talk to them and try to get them to understand us as much as possible.”

She also found that some of the basic basketball fundamentals that are taught in the U.S. weren’t part of Kuwaiti basketball. “You’d be surprised to learn some of the basics they just don’t have over her, such as zones,” said Alissa. “There was a lot that they lacked that we’ve been teaching them, and I think they see how hard me and the other American are working, so that’s been motivating them.”

“I’m proud of her,” said Coach Perry of Alissa’s professional career. “She continued to work after her dream regardless of obstacles and I’m very proud of her accomplishments. I want Alissa to succeed in whatever she does and seize her moments and opportunities.”

Alissa’s future with the league is uncertain at this point, but so far, the experience has been an incredibly positive one for her, particularly when it has come to bonding with her team. “Meeting our teammates has been amazing,” said Alissa. “They welcomed us into their homes, and we’ve met their families, and we’ve been able to see how different their lives are from ours in America. They’ve welcomed us with open arms.”

Alissa also shares quite of bit of affection for her former Bobcat teammates. “I grew up as the only child on my mother’s side,” she said. “Those girls at Bryant and Stratton became the sisters I always wanted. As I take this new journey in life, I want them to know the memories we shared are my motivation when I step on that court. It’s not music, it’s not a proper warmup that gets me ready to play. It’s the memories. The memories helped me let go of my fear of being in a different country and I would not be where I’m at in life right now if it wasn’t for them. The team helped me in ways that I never really got a chance to express to them, but I hope it has gotten to them now.”

For more information about Bryant & Stratton College’s Women’s Basketball program in Buffalo, visit For more information about Bryant & Stratton College athletics in your area, visit

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