When she was just a girl, and her gradeschool classmates were spinning dreams of becoming teachers or firefighters, Aulani Sinclair’s focus remained true.
She wanted to play professional basketball.
That goal was realized Monday, when the former Indiana University women’s basketball standout signed to play professionally for PINKK Pecsi 424 in Hungary’s top women’s basketball league.
It all came about quickly for Sinclair, who began talking with the European outfit within the last week before announcing she had signed on Monday afternoon. She leaves for Hungary on Sunday.
“I’m excited. I have a lot of emotions right now,” said Sinclair, who most recently showcased her talents as part of a United States college all-star team that went undefeated during a nine-game run through the Four Nations Tournament in China this June.
That’s where her link to Hungary begins. Sinclair earned Most Valuable Player honors after leading the U.S. with 11 points during the tournament run. One of her best games came against a Hungary, when she scored 22 points, including six 3-pointers, and grabbed seven rebounds.
An assistant coach with that Hungarian All-Star team also has ties to PINKK Pecsi 424. The team’s coach reached out to Sinclair’s agent and the two sides were able to work out a deal.
“They said they were looking for a scorer and they had an opportunity to see me,” Sinclair said. “I had a really good game and that showed them that I could score the ball and be a good fit.”
Sinclair expects her role in Hungary to be similar to the one she played at Indiana. She’ll play the No. 3 spot in a system she says has a few similarities to the ball-screen offense coach Curt Miller runs in Bloomington.
Sinclair led the Hoosiers in scoring last season with 15.5 points per game, and won the State Farm 3-Point Championship during the Men’s Final Four in Atlanta. She graduated as Indiana’s all-time leader in career 3-point field goal percentage with a 37.3 point average over four seasons.
“The last couple years, seeing some of the girls like Jori Davis and Amber Jackson go overseas and play and hearing them put the confidence in me helped me know I can play over there,” Sinclair said.
Her new team plays its games in Pecs, Hungary — roughly a two-hour drive south of Budapest. Sinclair she’s already sought advice from former teammate Linda Rubene, a Latvia native, on adopting to European culture. From what she’s gathered, most of the players on the team can speak English, but she’s prepared to learn and adopt the new culture, too.
“I have an app on my phone (for translating), so sometimes I’ll play around with different words,” Sinclair said.
PINKK Pecsi 424 begins its season on Sept. 28.