By JOEL CARLSON
Sometimes it takes being away from home, a long way from home, for a girl to get some clarity on what’s important in life. And what she needs to do about it.
After playing professionally in Denmark in 2014-15 and Luxembourg last fall and early winter, Jordan Sullivan, born in Sidney, raised to be a Lady Griz and Montana to the core, is back where she belongs.
Sullivan, who graduated with a marketing degree and nearly spotless GPA in May 2014, will be a first-year student in UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law when classes start next month.
“I want to be in Montana,” said Sullivan, who was on campus last week to work a girls’ basketball camp for her uncle and former coach, Robin Selvig. “I figured that out while I was overseas.
“When you’re so far away and on your own, you figure out what’s most important in life. That’s how I decided to come back.”
Sullivan, who played with a style that can best be described as all out, all the time, helped Montana win 81 games in her four-year career and advance to three national tournaments.
The Lady Griz played UCLA in Spokane in the NCAA Tournament when Sullivan was a freshman. They played Georgia in the same location two years later.
Sullivan averaged 11.6 points and earned second-team All-Big Sky Conference honors as a senior. Her career came to an end with a loss to San Diego in the second round of the 2014 WNIT.
She won the Little Sullivan Award that spring and spent the summer in a holding pattern. She could have put her degree to use in the business world, but she also needed to remain uncommitted to anything but her game and staying in shape in case something developed.
“I wasn’t ready to be done playing, so I spent that summer waiting to hear about opportunities to go overseas,” Sullivan said.
Former Lady Griz standout Jeanne McNulty-King, who is now a sports agent, finally reached a deal in August with a team in Denmark. The season started in September.
It was basketball, but like any number of former Montana players of recent history have discovered, in all sorts of different overseas leagues, there will never be anything again like being a Lady Griz. The team, the camaraderie, the support, the success, the coaches. They can’t be duplicated.
“I didn’t expect it to be like playing for the Lady Griz, because it’s hard to match that. But it’s so different,” said Sullivan. “It’s hard when there are one or two professionals on a team and everyone else is playing for fun. Not everybody was on the same level with how important it was.
“But I’m still glad I went. I got to go somewhere I’d never been and got a chance to make a living playing basketball.”
Sullivan worked as a substitute teacher in her hometown in the spring of 2015 and worked camps across the state last summer before giving basketball one more shot.
She moved to Luxembourg for a new chance with a new team, but the sands were passing through the hourglass, faster now. She was still in her athletic prime, but when interest and desire begin to wane, non-playing options start to look more and more appealing.
“Luxembourg was really fun. I loved my teammates, and I lived with the other American on the team, a girl who played at Quinnipiac, but basketball was losing its fun,” said Sullivan.
With law schools only accepting new classes once a year, a clock was ticking in the background, louder as each day passed last fall.
If she wanted to begin school in the fall, she had to get busy preparing for the LSAT, something she found difficult to do in Luxembourg. Taking the test would have required a trip to Paris.
If she put everything off and played out the season through March, she would have missed all the deadlines. Law school would have been put on hold until the fall of 2017.
“I talked to my coaches and told them I thought it would be best to pursue what would best help me down the road. They were understanding,” said Sullivan, who packed up in December and decamped for Sidney to begin preparing for the Law School Admission Test in February.
She isn’t convinced she did her best, but with her sterling undergraduate transcript, which she produced while being a decorated student-athlete, personal statement, letter of interest and letter of recommendation from Selvig, Sullivan got in. Probably with little debate from the selection committee.
While her American teammate, Samantha Guastella, was earning MVP honors in the spring after leading BBC Etzella to the Luxembourg Cup championship, Sullivan was working as a court reporter at the Richland County Law and Justice center in Sidney.
“At some point you sit over there and wonder what you’re going to do next, because I knew basketball wasn’t going to be a long-term overseas career for me. It was time to figure out what I wanted to do next,” she said.
For Montana’s School of Law, it will be out with one former Lady Griz and in with another. And even another Griz.
Alexandra Hurley graduated in May and will be taking the Montana bar exam later this month. Sullivan can take Hurley’s place on the school’s intramural basketball team. Former track and field sprinter Madison Worst is also part of the School of Law’s Class of 2019.
So Sullivan will have one foot in her former life — she’ll be living this year with Lady Griz senior Rachel Staudacher and won’t miss many home games — but mostly be part of another world, a world where she’ll have to purchase and pick up her own books, schedule her own classes, and pay her own way.
“That’s something I haven’t had to think about before, so I’ve had to figure that out. As an athlete you get spoiled because so much of that is done for you. Now I have to register and get my books and try to find the cheapest way to do it. You just have to look at it as an investment in yourself, I guess,” she said.
She doesn’t know where law school will lead, and she kind of likes it that way.
“Business law is something that interests me. International law, too. Being a sports agent down the road would be awesome. I’m hoping it’s like undergrad. You get in there and get pulled in one direction because you really like something.”