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Final Four past, present collide in Tampa for former UConn player

Briana Pulido’s career path after college never diverges much from basketball and brings her back to the site of one of her national titles.
 
Connecticut’s Briana Pulido warms up before an NCAA college basketball game against SMU, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut’s Briana Pulido warms up before an NCAA college basketball game against SMU, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Published April 5, 2019|Updated April 5, 2019

TAMPA — Briana Pulido was on the Amalie Arena court in 2015 when Connecticut beat Notre Dame for the national title.

Four years later, the Huskies are back in Tampa to play the Fighting Irish, this time in the semifinals.

Pulido again has a role in the tournament, not as a player but as the sustainability coordinator for Tampa Bay’s local organizing committee for the Final Four.

“Somehow, for me, it keeps coming back to basketball,” Pulido said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation to have two of my passions come together like this.”

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Pulido won national titles all three seasons at UConn (2013-16). She lost just one game — ever — in college.

Most of her career, though, was spent cheering on points at the far end of the bench.

That role suited Pulido just fine. She was not heavily recruited out of Miami Gulliver Prep, at least not in basketball.

The former high jump and hurdle specialist first became a Huskies athlete on a track scholarship. In the fall of her sophomore season, she found out UConn was looking for walk-on candidates to fill out its women’s basketball roster.

“I told my track coach what I was going to do,” Pulido said. “He thought I was crazy.”

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Pulido competed in practice with some of the best players in the country. There were other challenges, too. She juggled a rigorous academic schedule as a medical student that forced her to miss some road games.

Still, Pulido persevered. Geno Auriemma took notice of Pulido’s dedication to the program, rewarding her with a full scholarship as a senior.

The highlight of Pulido’s career came in the 2016 title game. She got on the court in the final seconds, found a spot in the corner and swished a 3-pointer for Connecticut’s final basket in an 82-51 win over Syracuse.

All the Huskies cheered, even the stars.

Afterward, Pulido moved on to her next chapter. She became a medical school student at USF before deciding on another path.

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During that time, Pulido remained active in basketball. She was a manager for the USF women’s team in 2017 and spent last season as an assistant coach in high school.

Pulido now has her master’s degree in global sustainability.

“It took a while, but I finally figured out my path in life,” she said.

Since leaving UConn, Pulido has attended every Final Four, where she reunites with former teammates. She stays also stays in touch with Auriemma.

“I sent a text to Geno about three months ago asking for a favor,” Pulido said. “He came through for me.”

Pulido’s role as a sustainability coordinator is part of an internship. She does have tickets for the Final Four.

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“It’s great to find ways to still stay involved,” Pulido said.

Women’s Final Four

Amalie Arena, Tampa

Friday: Baylor vs. Oregon, 7 and Notre Dame vs. UConn, 9:30 TV: ESPN2

Sunday: final, 6 TV: ESPN

More info/tickets: Single-session tickets are available through the NCAA’s official site; prices vary. Visit ncaa.com/womens-final-four