Joe Dodson, Staff Writer
Before redshirt-sophomore forward Chloe Bloom ever considered moving to the U.S. from Australia to pursue her dreams of playing college basketball, she was a competitive netball player.
Growing up in Wedderburn, Australia, Bloom was encouraged by her parents to play netball as a way to stay active. The sport consists of two teams trying to get a ball into a hoop. In netball, there is no dribbling or backboard, and players must stay in designated zones.
“My father is a really sporty guy,” Bloom said. “They both really encouraged me to play sports all throughout my life.”
Bloom started playing basketball as a way to stay in shape during offseasons, but she decided to focus more on the sport when she was 13, she said. From the first day she started prioritizing basketball, Bloom was committed to earning a college scholarship.
Bloom quickly took to her new sport and ended her secondary school career regarded as a four-star recruit by Prospect Nation and the No. 19 best player at her position in the 2019 class by ESPN.
Bloom realized her dream of playing college basketball in the U.S. was a reality when she accepted an offer from the University of Oklahoma. She separated from her family for the first time when she left Australia for Norman, Oklahoma.
“The transition was a lot for me. I had never really been away from my family before,” Bloom said. “Then I went to live in a whole different country to my family — and we’re very close.”
Bloom redshirted after joining the Sooners in January of 2019. In her redshirt-freshman season, she scored a total of two points and grabbed five rebounds. Bloom said she struggled at first to adjust to the different playing style in the U.S.
“Basketball in Australia is a lot more transition play, and it’s very fast,” Bloom said. “The girls in the states, they’re a lot more physical and athletic.”
After being one of the top international prospects in her class, Bloom had to adjust to a new role on the bench.
“It was a lot to digest when I went to Oklahoma,” Bloom said. “I went from the go-to player on my high school teams to being someone that needs to be on the bench and needs to encourage people that are playing a lot more than me.”
After only making four appearances, Bloom decided she needed to transfer in order to develop on the court.
“I wanted to do more and play more,” Bloom said. “I felt like my pathway to success wasn’t really at the Sooners.”
Bloom returned to Australia at the end of last season and reconnected with her personal development coach from her secondary school years, Nathan Lovett. Lovett works with developing Australian basketball prospects and helps connect them to American colleges.
Lovett is one of O’Boyle’s recruitment contacts, so when Bloom entered the transfer portal he contacted O’Boyle. O’Boyle said when she first watched Bloom’s tape, she was impressed with her ability to set strong screens.
“She is that physical player that is going to do all the little things and the tough things,” O’Boyle said.
Bloom said she felt a connection with O’Boyle that led her to transfer to VCU. The COVID-19 pandemic made the transfer process difficult, as Bloom could only do virtual visits.
“I didn’t really know what I was coming into,” Bloom said. “I couldn’t really have a connection with the team.”
Bloom credits her international teammates like senior guards Tera Reed, Olga Petrova and center Sofya Pashigoreva for helping her transition to VCU.
“They’re there to help me get through my homesickness,” Bloom said. “They were able to connect with me that way.”
Fellow transfer and redshirt-sophomore forward Samantha Robinson says Bloom fit into the team well because of her humor and support on the sideline. O’Boyle says the team has loved having her energy from the bench.
“She’s really supportive,” O’Boyle said. “You look at any of our film when she’s on the bench and she’s the first one jumping up.”
On the court, Robinson said Bloom’s strength, ability to finish at the rim and her mid-range shooting skills shine.
“She’s really strong,” Robinson said. “She is one of the stronger post players in the A-10.”
She is averaging a career-best 4.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 15 minutes. Bloom has scored in double digits three times this season, including a 13-point performance against George Washington on Feb. 1 where she went 6-of-7 from the floor.
Bloom’s playing time has steadily grown throughout the season. After leaving Australia more than two years ago, the athlete said she is finally getting her confidence back on the court.
“I feel like I fit right in,” Bloom said. “I love everything about the team and what we’re about.”
The Rams are scheduled to play at UMass on Friday at noon. The game will broadcast on ESPN+.