What offseason? Only 10 days after wrapping up her rookie season with the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, Megan Gustafson hops on a plane Wednesday. The course of travel: Duluth to Chicago to Philadelphia to Budapest, Hungary.
The preseason is underway in Europe, and Gustafson — the former consensus national women’s basketball player of the year for the Iowa Hawkeyes — is hustling to catch up with her new teammates at NKE-Csata, a member of the Hungarian “A” League in time for the regular-season opener Sept. 28.
“It will pretty much be get there, practice and play,” Gustafson said in a phone interview Tuesday from her hometown of Port Wing, Wis.
“I think I learned a lot this summer ... ball-handling, shooting, developing a face-up game ... and I’m excited to implement all of that.”
Gustafson was the driving force behind one of the best seasons in Iowa history last winter, resetting the school’s scoring and rebounding records as the Hawkeyes (29-7) won the Big Ten tournament championship and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
She was selected by Dallas in the second round of the WNBA Draft, was cut, then re-signed. In 25 games, she averaged 9.5 minutes, 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as the Wings went 10-24.
“There were definitely a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “It was a great learning experience.
“I’m a basketball player, and I would have loved to have played more. But I’m an undersized post, and I embraced the role I had, coming off the bench and providing a spark of energy.”
A WNBA salary, Gustafson said, “isn’t enough to live on,” and most professional players journey overseas during the winter.
With her Hungarian team, Gustafson will be neither undersized nor young. At 6-foot-3, she will be the tallest player on the team. At 22, she’ll be the third-oldest.
The regular season will run through March, and the postseason could extend into April or May.
Then it’s back to the WNBA. A franchise usually has rights to a drafted player for four years, but because Gustafson was released briefly, she is an unrestricted free agent.
When the schedule allows, Gustafson will return to Iowa City this winter for an official jersey-retirement ceremony. She is the second player in program history to be so honored, joining Michelle Edwards.
It will be a season of transition for the Hawkeyes, who also lost Hannah Stewart and Tania Davis to graduation. Gustafson will keep track of her former team as much as possible from across the ocean.
“I think they’re still going to be decent,” Gustafson said. “They have a good core group, with Kathleen (Doyle) leading the way. They’ve got good shooters and some good young blood.”
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