Franklin Regional's Buleca commits to Point Park
Point Park women's basketball coach Tony Grenek first saw Franklin Regional's Baylee Buleca play during the summer before her freshman season, when he was an assistant at Seton Hill.
“The coaches said (to) keep an eye on this kid (because) in a few years, she's going to be someone to look at,” Grenek said.
Four seasons later, the Franklin Regional coaches' prediction came true. Buleca, a four-year starter for the Panthers, officially committed to play for Point Park next season.
“We're really excited to bring in another WPIAL impact player,” Grenek said. “She's 6-foot-1, she has a long wingspan (and) she's got great athleticism. We are ecstatic to have her come in, and I think she can be an impact player right away at Point Park University.”
Buleca's commitment to Point Park capped a long, and at times difficult, recruitment.
The 6-foot-1 forward received heavy interest from teams during the first two seasons of her high school career before she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee prior to the 2012-13 season. Grinek got in touch with Buleca after her junior season to offer her a spot at Point Park.
“He said he loved how I played,” Buleca said. “I was excited because that was after getting the whole knee surgery and trying to get over that. It was just a fun process. I liked the coaching staff there (and) the atmosphere of where it's at. It's close to home, so it just seemed like a good fit.”
Although Buleca also considered Seton Hill and Slippery Rock, she said Point Park was always her No. 1 choice.
“I met a few of the girls each time I had gone there,” Buleca said. “They were very nice. They told me how (Grinek) ran practices and games and what they would do. It just seemed like I wanted to be a part of it as well.
“I liked where Point Park is at. It's in the city, but it's a smaller campus, which is nicer. I think after my second or third visit, I was confident that Point Park was the one.”
Over her four seasons at Franklin Regional, Buleca scored 889 points, pulled down 864 rebounds and blocked 310 shots. This past season, she averaged 11.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game, leading Franklin Regional in all three categories.
“Truly, Baylee's been a backbone of our program,” Franklin Regional coach Rick Klimchock said. “It's hard to make up for all those rebounds and blocked shots and intimidating things she did. She's going to be sorely missed, but we're really proud of her.
“The proudest thing I was with her was how she overcame her knee injury, which was pretty debilitating for a while, and came back and was just a great player for us all four years — and not just a great player, but a great kid. She did everything we asked her to do and tried hard to win every game.”
Buleca said she would look back on her time at Franklin Regional with fond memories of learning from older players and passing along those lessons to younger players. She said she grew as a player in her time with the Panthers.
“I'm more confident in shooting,” she said. “I remember when I was a freshman and a sophomore, I would always know to pass the ball instead of shoot it myself. I started to understand that I can change the way the game is going maybe late (in my) sophomore to junior year, so I started to take things to do myself to help the team.”
Point Park competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Pioneers went 29-5 in 2013-14, winning the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and advancing to the NAIA Tournament before bowing out in the first round.
“They're a very good team,” Buleca said. “They play very fast, which is kind of what we're used to. Just the fact that they've gone to nationals makes me excited to be a part of it next year.”
Buleca will join Natalie Alexander (Carlow), Erin DiFalco (Thiel), Dana Eastman (Chatham) and Maggie Kimmich (St. Vincent) as Franklin Regional alumnae playing college basketball next season.
“We're happy she's playing locally so we can go see her,” Klimchock said.