April 20, 2022
How undrafted rookie Aleksa Gulbe arrived in Uncasville
Gulbe: ‘never thought I would be put in this position'
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Aleksa Gulbe said she didn’t have high expectations for the WNBA Draft last Monday night, but she did have plans. Gulbe and her former Indiana teammate Ali Patberg were going to work out before watching the draft with a small circle of close friends and coaches. But before she could make it to the draft, she got a call.
It was her agent, who wanted to let her know that she most likely was not getting drafted that evening, but the Connecticut Sun were interested in signing her to a training camp contract.
“It’s unreal,” Gulbe said. “It’s unreal for me to think that when I started as a freshman at Indiana … that I would (eventually) enter the draft or be in the conversation. But you never know with life.”
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She couldn’t tell anyone about the phone call, so instead she watched the draft, anxiously waiting to see where Patberg would end up. She felt the rush of joy and excitement when Patberg’s headshot appeared as the Indiana Fever’s final pick as the draft came to a close.
After the draft, Sun head coach Curt Miller called to congratulate Gulbe on earning a training camp invite. She finally got to spill the secret she had been keeping all night.
“We popped a bottle of champagne, had a glass of it,” Gulbe told The Next. “And then afterwards, it was important for me to start packing.”
Miller called Gulbe the “pleasant surprise” early on in camp when speaking to The Next on Monday. He complimented her instincts and her high basketball IQ, while Director of Player Development Awvee Storey said Gulbe came to camp with a nice grasp of the fundamentals.
Gulbe had the best season of her college career as a senior, averaging 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds, and earning Big Ten Second Team honors. The 6’3 forward finished her career with more than 1,000 points and 600 rebounds in her four seasons at Indiana.
Gulbe hadn’t talked with the Sun staff before the draft, but she knew Miller kept contact with Indiana’s Director of Basketball Operations Liz Honegger, who started at Indiana in 2012 under Miller when he was the head coach. Honegger is also one of Bowling Green’s most decorated women’s basketball players, where she also played under Miller.
Throughout the last week, Gulbe packed up her life in Bloomington and flew to Uncasville to prepare for camp – all while continuing classes online for her undergraduate degree at Indiana. She admitted the first day of camp on Sunday was difficult, but a lot of that stemmed from early nerves. After pushing through the anxiety, she said camp has been a great experience.
“Getting to know the girls on and off the floor, it’s been really important,” Gulbe said. “And the coaches have done a good job of easing us into it. We have a little bit of up and down running, and playing against each other, but we’ve mostly been slowly implementing the system of Connecticut Sun.”
In a week, Gulbe went from not expecting to make a WNBA training camp, to playing alongside reigning MVP Jonquel Jones. It’s an added bonus for the young players in camp to have a veteran like Jones – who has missed the majority of training camp throughout the last few seasons because of her overseas season – on the floor as they try to learn the Sun system.
“I would have never thought that I would be put in this position that we might be teammates,” Gulbe said. “I haven’t had the chance to defend her yet. So we’ve been playing on the same team, but it’s just great. It’s just great to grasp the experience from Courtney Williams, Jonquel Jones, and everybody that’s been on the team so far.”
Gulbe said camp has gotten easier as it’s gone on, but she’s just trying to soak in as much of the experience for now, and learn as much as she possibly can.
“I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself. I just want to have fun,” Gulbe said. “I want to learn, and if at the end of the day I make the team, that’s great. If not, you know, I’ll be happy either way that I’ve met these people and they’ve given me extra teaching points and lessons. I’m happy.”