She was a key member of the Ivy League's first team to receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Martina Jerant's Brown Bears threw a huge scare at eventual champion UConn.
In 1994 Brown University, with Martina Jerant, became the Ivy League's initial entry to the NCAA women's basketball tournament. As the 16th seed they had to play first seed and eventual champion UConn. Jerant remembers "the Brown Bears in our old uniforms came out and played. The game was tied at halftime." In the second half Brown led 38-35 before losing 76-60.
"They (the Huskies) were scared" she says. "We eventually lost but it was a great game. They wound up winning the whole thing. I think they beat the next team by 60 points or something."
Jerant has played a lot of basketball over the years - from grade and high school, all over Europe for many years, and on the Canadian national team - but her team at Brown stands out. "My Brown team really gelled. I've played on a lot of teams and that one was really special. My teammates are my closest friends to this day. They are all coming to my wedding this spring."
At Brown Jerant was Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year, and three-time All-Ivy. The three-time Brown MVP started the most games in Brown history and is also first in field goal percentage and rebounds. She's second in games played, blocked shots and free throws, and third in scoring average, points and field goals.
"When I was in Providence all four years it was under construction," reminisces Jerant, but describes her experience as overwhelmingly positive. "I really can't remember not being able to do something I wanted," she says. An assistant coach helped teach her time management skills and "I also used tutors - even in classes where I was doing well, it helped me focus," she says.
The 6-foot-6 Jerant was born in Canada and grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich., her parents emigrating from Croatia in 1967. Jerant grew up bilingual. She was a senior in high school and looking for colleges to apply to when "my mom first told me about Brown. We contacted them and the basketball staff began recruiting me." They visited and she "fell in love with Brown, the campus, the people, the atmosphere. Basketball was a crucial factor because the team and coaching staff introduced me to Brown."
About the only thing Jerant remembers missing out on at Brown was her graduation ceremony. She couldn't attend because she was in Poland training for the Olympics with the Canadian national team. Canada had to qualify first. They hadn't made it to the last two Olympics, but with Jerant they made it to Atlanta.
She treasures the experience, "The excitement of the opening ceremonies, that was overwhelming," Jerant remembers. "I knew an astonishing number of athletes - from Brown, the Ivy League, from playing in Europe. It was like the whole world was in one place. It was the top competition I've ever seen. Everyone was playing their best, or even better than that. We didn't make it to the medal round, but we had a lot of fun after we got knocked out, just being in the Olympic Village and going to the events."
Jerant graduated in 1995 with a degree in biology. While training for the Olympics in 1995 and 1996 she also played for the professional team Croatia in the European league. She then worked as a Columbia University assistant coach while earning a Masters in Public Health degree. Jerant used her degree to work in health care administration until 2002, when she moved back to Croatia and played professional basketball. She played for a number of different teams and opened a Pilates and yoga studio.
Recently Jerant moved back to Michigan, where she is getting married. She isn't sure where her career will go from here, but is thinking about resuming her work in health care. She feels her Brown education will stand her in good stead. "That's where I really learned how to be an adult. I have such good memories and love visiting as often as I can."
— Suzanne Eschenbach