TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Even after two All-American seasons at Florida State, Adut Bulgak wasn’t sure the WNBA would come calling. She thought there might be a chance to play overseas, but the thought of playing professionally in the United States didn’t even cross her mind until a week or so ago. “The WNBA was never part of my plans,” Bulgak said. “I never thought I was going to get there.”
She was never so happy to be so wrong.
Surrounded by friends and teammates, Bulgak’s phone rangThursday evening with a call from the staff of the New York Liberty, one of the WNBA’s charter franchises.
The Liberty had the 12th pick in the first round of the WNBA draft, and they were using it to select Bulgak.
In one sweeping moment, what was recently a far away dream became a reality.
“It was a thousand emotions,” Bulgak said. “My hands were shaking. ‘Leti’ (former FSU teammate Leticia Romero) was trying to calm me down while the draft was going on. I couldn’t even hold my phone. It was pretty cool.”
Bulgak is the third Seminole drafted in the first round (Natasha Howard, 2014; Jacinta Monroe, 2010) and is FSU’s 10th overall WNBA draft selection.
She was joined for the draft by the entire FSU women’s basketball team, as well as several members of the men’s team and support staff from each.
“When we saw her get drafted in the first round we were thrilled,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said. “Just because of her humility and her work ethic.”
Finally given time to catch her breath after hearing the news, Bulgak first tried to call her mother, Ayen Alith, at her home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
It wasn’t until 4 p.m., Friday that Bulgak and Alith finally got a hold of each other.
Thankfully, the news had already made its way there.
“She was screaming before she could even say hello,” Bulgak said with a laugh.
Meanwhile the rest of Bulgak’s family – brothers, sisters, cousins and nephews – gathered to follow the draft together. They couldn’t watch on television, but, thanks to social media, were able to keep up with the proceedings.
New York is still a great distance from Winnipeg, but travelling between the two cities should be far easier than say, getting from Winnipeg to Tallahassee, so Bulgak hopes her family has more opportunities to see her play.
She also has relatives in Toronto, about 500 miles from New York.
“I’ll actually have people that can come see me from Canada now,” Bulgak said.
Playing for the Liberty offers Bulgak, a 6-foot-4 center, a chance to learn under one of the most effective – and infamous – centers in basketball history.
Bill Laimbeer, who earned a reputation as perhaps the “baddest” of the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” teams of the late 1980s, has coached the Liberty since 2013.
Semrau believes Bulgak and Laimbeer will make a perfect pair.
“Her strengths are being an enforcer,” Semrau said. “And now you get her being coached by someone like that, I’m excited to see where she goes from here.”
With her path forward now clear, Bulgak all of a sudden finds that her calendar is awfully crowded.
She’ll leave for training camp in New York on Friday, and the WNBA’s preseason schedule starts May 1.Along the way, she’ll travel back to Canada for Olympic try-outs.
“It’s all coming at once now,” Bulgak said with a smile. “I should’ve probably tried to take it in last week.”
Despite her busy schedule, Bulgak has found some time to reflect on her career at FSU.
In just two years with the program, Bulgak climbed into the program’s Top 20 for rebounds per game (8.7, fourth), blocked shots (88, ninth), 3-point percentage (34.4 percent, 10th) points per game (12.5, 17th) and total rebounds (591, 18th).
That coincided with perhaps the best two-year stretch in school history. The Seminoles won 57 games, made back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time ever, and were just seconds away from a Final Four appearance in 2015.
It’s those team accomplishments that Bulgak says she will remember most as she takes the next step in her career.
“The banners in the gym, like, being a part of that,” she said. “I can say I was in that 2015-16 class that helped get to a new milestone.”