PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap High School alumna Dana Goularte recently completed quite the experience playing professional basketball in New Zealand.
Goularte played for the Otago Gold Rush, which ended up winning the 2018 Women’s Basketball Championship this summer, due in large part to the play of the 5-11 forward. She earned MVP honors and an all-star bid for the tournament.
“The season was enjoyable,” Goularte said. “Every game was a battle and a little bit stressful. I’m really blessed to be a part of this organization and team.”
The road to this point wasn’t always easy for Goularte, but discovering the game she loved and working with persistence put her in the position she is in now.
“I wasn’t getting any looks for soccer but I knew I wanted to play a sport in college,” Goularte said.
Lettering all four years in basketball for South Kitsap bolstered her status for competing in college basketball
“We were pretty darn good, [but] I was definitely not the best player,” Goularte said. “I had awesome girls around me, they were playing AAU. It was a great environment for me to be around.”
The humble athlete first headed to Western Oregon University to play basketball, a Division-II team in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Her freshman year was an adjustment, she said, as it is for most players going from high school to compete at the college level. She started just one of 28 games.
“I would say the biggest thing I struggled with was fitness and strength,” Goularte said. “Coming to WOU was a shock to me, the level of athletes is a step up. I completely got my butt kicked. It took me a year to get my act together and come and train every day.”
Coming to that realization was vital for Goularte as she began to understand what it took to excel at the college level. She earned a lot more playing time in her sophomore year, starting 22 games and averaging near-double-digit points. Her junior and senior years were significant steps forward for the former Wolves player. She averaged 17.8 points and 15.6 points, respectively, during those seasons. Her play as an upperclassmen put her in a good position to get the attention of professional teams overseas.
Then came her opportunity. Goularte connected with the Otago Gold Rush’s development officer — also an American — who had previously played on the team. They were looking for an import player and, eventually, called to invite her to play professionally in New Zealand for about a month’s time.
When asked if she would consider returning to play for the Gold Rush at some point, Goularte didn’t shy away from the idea.
“I’d love to play as long as I possibly can,” Goularte said. “If I have the opportunity to go back, I will.”
In the meantime, she has started a job with the GNAC conference office.
Goularte earned her bachelor’s degree in business and sports management at WOU. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in sports administration at Seattle University.
Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tshuey@soundpub lishing.com