Former Penn State women's basketball star Jessica Brungo is back in the WNBA after a three-month absence.
Brungo, a North Allegheny High graduate, played with the Connecticut Sun for two seasons, 2004 and 2005. She was invited back this year for preseason, but was not signed to a contract.
Injuries, however, left the Sun shorthanded. Brungo, a 6-foot-1 forward, joined the team last week, signing a contract that will keep her with Connecticut through the end of the season.
"I didn't really think about coming back, but I was working a couple of camps at Penn State, so I've been able to stay in shape," she said.
"It will be nice to be here for the remainder of the season."
The WNBA regular season will end in August. The Sun is in first place in the East Division and will likely make the playoffs.
Brungo joined the team Tuesday, but did not play in games on Tuesday or Wednesday because she is on the team's inactive list. She can travel and practice, but not play.
The Sun, which is owned by the Mohegan American Indian Tribe, is one of the WNBA's most successful teams.
In each of Brungo's first two seasons, the team lost in the WNBA Finals.
Brungo has a history of being on successful teams, dating back to high school. During her time at North Allegheny, the Tigers went to three consecutive WPIAL finals. Brungo left as that school's all-time leading scorer with 1,535 points. She was named to the Post-Gazette Fabulous Five in 2000.
At Penn State, she was a power forward who was known primarily as a rebounder. But she still managed to score 1,143 points, and her coach, Rene Portland, predicted big things for her at the professional level.
"She's the perfect WNBA player," Portland told the Post-Gazette. "She's a tall, lanky player who can shoot the three and dribble it up the court."
Brungo was drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft by Connecticut. Because Penn State made the Elite Eight that year, she went straight from one season to another.
"Coming straight out of the NCAA tournament into my first year, there was a lot of excitement," she said.
"It made for a long year of basketball, but I think the excitement carried me through it."
Brungo played in most of the Sun's games, averaging 9.5 minutes per game. After the season ended, she went back to Penn State to finish her degree.
Her second season in the WNBA, Brungo played in only 12 games. She spent the offseason overseas, playing basketball in Portugal.
Although she is a forward, Brungo will be used in the Suns' four-guard set.
Now she will spend the next few days preparing to again play basketball at the highest level. She doesn't have much time, though, with the season coming to an end.
"There's definitely practicing when there's time, but there are so many games that there aren't as many practices this time of year," she said.
The Sun will play at least three games every week for the remainder of the season.
Michael Phillips can be reached at (412) 263-1012 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org