Aces are wild

Former NMU star Colla signs with women’s pro team

Northern Michigan University senior guard Alyssa Colla, left, drives into the lane with past Michigan Tech junior forward Danielle Blake (42) during a game at the Huskies' SDC Gym on Feb. 2, 2015. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)

MARQUETTE — Two years removed from her playing days with the Northern Michigan University women’s basketball team, Alyssa Colla is taking her talents to the next level.

Colla signed a semi-professional contract with the Milwaukee Aces of the Global Women’s Basketball Association, a team located close to her hometown of Muskego in the Milwaukee suburbs.

The 24-year-old said she feels fortunate to be continuing her career at this stage in her life.

“It’s exciting to be playing basketball for a team so close to home,” Colla said. “It’s a new team and a great opportunity for me.”

The Aces are in their third year of their existence, and play throughout the summer against teams from Chicago, Flint, Detroit and cities from Ohio before a playoff tournament in August.

Colla said the GWBA was a league she had been looking into and hoping to join before making the team in late April.

“I knew a little bit about the league from talking to girls on my team and looking into teams around Milwaukee,” Colla said. “There were a few tryouts we had to go through before they finalized the roster down to us 12.”

Colla was a four-year starter during her time as a Wildcat from 2011-2015, and her 1,567 points rank as the third most in program history.

She helped lead the Wildcats to four straight GLIAC tournament appearances and led NMU in scoring the last three seasons of her career.

Colla played a major role on the 2014 GLIAC tournament championship team, who sailed through the postseason with wins over Northwood, Michigan Tech and Malone to capture the tournament crown, ending a 10-year team championship drought for NMU athletics. The Wildcats also earned an NCAA tournament bid, but fell to Quincy in the Midwest Regional.

Colla said she has nothing but fond memories when looking back at her time with NMU.

“The thing that always sticks out were the friendships made,” Colla said. “I’m still close with a lot of the girls who were on my teams.

“I’ll always remember beating Tech, winning the GLIAC championship and going to the NCAA tourney in Missouri. Those are memories I will always cherish and never forget.”

Her stint with the Milwaukee Aces this summer will not be Colla’s first taste of professional basketball.

Two days after her graduation from NMU in May 2015, Colla and Wildcat teammate Lauren Gruber flew off to Australia, where they both played for the Cairns Dolphins of the Queensland Basketball League.

Unfortunately, Colla sustained an injury that cut her first season short, but she said the memories were irreplaceable.

“It was amazing to experience it, and it was even better being there with (Gruber),” Colla said.

“It wasn’t ideal to get injured halfway through the season basketball-wise, but it was still an incredible time.”

When returning to the states that fall, Colla took her degree from NMU in public relations and coaching and began her masters at the University of Dubuque, where she was also a graduate assistant under her former youth coach Mark Noll’s Division III women’s basketball team.

“I learned a ton more about the game and coaching being alongside him,” Colla said of her time at Dubuque. “It was beneficial to be able to accomplish that while getting my master’s done, and it was a lot of fun while learning a lot.”

Now just a few courses away from completing her masters and with another professional career with the Aces in front of her, Colla said she’s still looking for a career with sports when her playing days are up.

“I enjoyed my time on the coaching staff, but I’m not sure if it is what I will end up doing,” Colla said. “I’m looking into the sports broadcasting or sports media route to use my degree, and see what comes of it.

“But I’ll always keep coaching as an interest.”

It’s been a long journey for the former Wildcat, who didn’t even have NMU on her radar until late in her senior year of high school.

However, Colla said Marquette has become a special place to her over the years.

“I love it here, and I’m fortunate to have both sisters going to school at NMU so I have a reason to come back all the time,” Colla said. “I tell people all the time that my four years here were the best of my life.

“I love everything about the Marquette area and the community, so I’ll always come back every chance I get.”

Ray Bressette can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is rbressette@miningjournal.net.