Bevilaqua’s Farewell

tully

Tully BevilaquaTully Bevilaqua – A Fine Farewell

Tully Bevilaqua isn’t sure how to explain it. She was too short and not athletic enough to play in the WNBA in 1998. She’s too old to play in 2012. But here she is, in her 14th season, less than two weeks from turning 40, coming off the bench to provide defensive hustle and spark for the Silver Stars.

She’s leaving the game after this season, a portrait of perseverance and grit, a marvel with a most unusual career arc. Cut 12 games into her first WNBA season at age 25, Bevilaqua didn’t get a second chance in the league until she was 28, didn’t make her first All-WNBA Defensive Team until she was 33, didn’t make her first Olympic team until 36.

The older she got, the more her game improved. Who gets ignored in the WNBA Draft, struggles year after year and peaks as a star defender in their 30s?

Tully“Why it’s worked out that way, I have no idea,” Bevilaqua says. “I’m like a bottle of fine wine, aren’t I?”

She is a rarity: one of four players in WNBA history with more than 800 career assists and 500 steals. Only 41-year-old Taj McWilliams-Franklin of Minnesota is older.

When this final season ends — after more than 450 games and 1900 points — Bevilaqua will retire to life in — where else? — a gym. Only this time she’ll be a fitness instructor, personal trainer and youth basketball coach in Indianapolis.

“It’s bittersweet,” she says of her last season. “This is what I’ve been doing for 20-odd years. You lose people who have been in your life. But at the same time I’m super excited.”

Her improbable WNBA journey began in a small agricultural community in Western Australia. The city of Merredin — with a population of less than 3,000 — is known for wheat, a railway water tower and its proximity to the capital city of Perth (pop. 1.7 million), three hours to the west.

Merredin has produced prominent politicians, artists and athletes, but no basketball players of note until Bevilaqua. She grew up with rough-and-tumble brothers, playing Australian rules football, cricket, soccer and hoops. “I was a real tomboy,” she says.

While many of her WNBA contemporaries were playing year-round ball in their youth, Bevilaqua
plunged headlong into whatever game broke out. She tackled boys, wrestled for balls, rolled in grass and dirt fields. It wasn’t until she turned 17 and moved to Perth, that she began to focus on basketball.

In one respect, Bevilaqua’s late arrival to the year-round game put her behind a learning curve. In another respect, she believes, it extended her career. “Playing a lot of sports with my brothers gave me a toughness that made me stand out,” she says. “When I was trying out for the WNBA, I wasn’t scared to dive on the floor and get loose balls. It came naturally to me. When you are only 5-5 and playing against people who are much bigger, it definitely helped.”

She turned pro in 1991, joining the Perth Lynx of the Women’s National Basketball League in Australia, and developed steadily at the point. In her sixth season, she led the Lynx in assists. After her eighth season, Bevilaqua received a call at 1 a.m. from her agent, who’d sent tapes to WNBA teams. Five hours later, she was on a plane to the U.S. to play with a club beset with injured guards, the Cleveland Rockers. “Right place, right time,” Bevilaqua says. “Pure luck.”

The gig ended shortly. Bevilaqua continued playing with the Lynx, caught another break in 2000, played with the Portland Fire for three seasons, moved to the Seattle Storm, and won a WNBA championship in 2004 at 32.

Then her career ignited. The following season in Indiana, Bevilaqua made the first of six consecutive All-WNBA Defensive Teams. In the 2006 WNBA off season, she led the Canberra Capitals to the first of two consecutive WNBL titles and won the league’s Good Hands Award. In 2008, she made her first Olympic team. The Aussies won Silver.

At age 39, Bevilaqua looks golden. “One of the reasons for my success is I understood my role on every team,” she says. “I’m not a flashy player. I’m not athletically gifted. I play to my strengths.”

Defense. Hustle. Intelligence. The list goes on. “Tully is an example of several great qualities that sports can help illustrate,” says Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes. “One, her persistence is an incredible example to young athletes, not only on the court, but in her career as a professional basketball player. Secondly, she has carved out a unique role that has helped all WNBA teams she has been with. Lastly, she has been a leader and mentor to younger players.”

Long ago, in another world, Bevilaqua never imagined this. She has found lasting success in the WNBA and soon retires with a world of taller players looking up to her.

Jeanne McNulty KingJeanne McNulty King
2X Inc. is a full service agency that is dedicated to provide to its clients, with the client being the top priority and holding their best interests at heart, effective and personal representation that is readily accessible, holds true to its basic philosophies and principles, maintains a high level of professionalism, operates with the utmost integrity and is committed to excellence.

Newest Signings

Emma Merriweather

Emma has signed with Correcaminos of teh LNBPF in Mexico for the 2024 season!

Sophia Wiard

Soph has signed in Spain for the 2024-25 season!

Moira “Mo” Joiner

Katie Shumate

DeAnna Wilson

Nyah Morris

Nyah has signed to play for Darwin for the 2024 NBL1 season!

Zoe Hurley

Zoe has signed with Mt. Gambier of the NBL1 South for the 2024 season!

Megan Ormiston

Megan has signed with Broadmeadows in Australia for the 2024 season!

Ay’Anna Bey

Ay’Anna signed in Australia with Hornsby of the NBL1 East for the 2024 season!

Hannah Henderson

Hannah has signed in Australia’s NBL1 East with Norwood for the 2024 season!

Khiarica Rasheed

Khiarica has signed with Correcaminos of the LNBPF in Mexico for the 2024 season!

Laurie Thomas

Laurie has signed with Jose Regio in Portugal for the remainder of the 2023-24 season!

Britney Wright

Britney has signed with Australia’s NBL1 East’s  Bankstown for the 2024 season!

Grace Stone

Grace has signed with Australia’s NBL1 West’s Perry Lakes for the 2024 season!

E’Lease Stafford

E’Lease has signed with Tampereen Pyrinto for the remainder of the 2023-24 season!

Emmonnie Henderson

Emmonnie has signed in Mexico with Irapuato of the LNBPF for the summer of 2024!

Caitlyn Jones

Caitlyn has signed with Musel Pikes in Luxembourg for the 2023-24 season and Lakeside Lightning of the NBL1 for the 2024!!

Teyla Evans

Teyla has signed with Dandenong in Australia NBL1 South for the 2024 season!

Karisma Ortiz

Rachel McLimore

Rachel has signed with Australia’s NBL1 East Hills for the 2024 season!