Allie Quigley stood in the middle of Chicago's locker room in Indiana on Wednesday. The room reeked of champagne, her teammates snapped selfies, and they celebrated their first trip to the WNBA Finals, a place she might never have envisioned for herself just a couple of seasons ago.
The last time she'd been cut by a team, back in 2011 in Seattle, might be the last time she made a WNBA roster, Quigley thought back then.
She considered the possibility that her WNBA might be over. And then it wasn't.
Now the 28-year-old, who played for five teams in five years before she got to Chicago and never played in more than 14 games in a single season before 2013, can say that she took her team to the WNBA Finals.
Quigley's 24 points on the Fever's home floor Wednesday to clinch the Sky's spot in the league's championship series was not a surprise so much as a culmination, the next logical step in a career path that has been building since Pokey Chatman found a place for her on her hometown team in 2013.
Quigley is something close to Chicago sports royalty. Her mother, Christine, was one of the top high school girls' basketball players in state history. Her late father, Patrick, has his name on the court at the University of St. Francis after a stellar career. Her younger sister, Sam, is the head women's coach at St. Francis. Her brother Ryan played minor league baseball and was a star quarterback.
DePaul coach Doug Bruno said the Quigley girls were local legends.
"I started hearing about them in fifth and sixth grade when they were playing Little League Baseball in Joliet on All-Star teams," Bruno said. "Allie and Sam came to our camps."
Quigley was a three-sport star at Joliet Catholic Academy and chose to play college basketball close to home at DePaul, where she finished her career as the program's third all-time leading scorer. Seattle drafted her in the second round in 2008.
"I'm just really proud of her perseverance," Bruno said. "I've watched her at every place she played, and she put herself in position to have a couple of good games. She was never really a rotation player before now. Now that she's in, she's showing why she should be."
But not before she got a full tour of the WNBA. Quigley's first stay with Seattle was brief; she was cut before the season and ended up spending 14 games with Phoenix as a rookie. She was re-signed by Phoenix in 2009 but then ended up with San Antonio and Indiana in 2010. She was back in Seattle in 2011 and out of the league in 2012 before she was picked up by Chicago. That summer, Quigley admitted she wondered if she was done in the WNBA. She worked Bruno's DePaul summer camp and watched Chicago games from the stands as a camp counselor, "tethered to 10 kids," Bruno said.
A year later, she was on the same floor playing with the Sky.
"I was pretty close to [thinking I was done]," Quigley said. "I figured I would at least be taking the summer off and then going back overseas. But when Chicago called, I figured, 'Let's give this a chance.' And it's been awesome."
Indiana coach Lin Dunn credits Quigley's work ethic and resiliency.
"Every time she got cut or let go, she would be working," Dunn said. "She's improved her speed, her quickness, her strength. She is not a defensive liability any more. You have to give her credit. She is an example that if you want to play in this league, and you put the time and effort in, you can do it."
Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler drafted Quigley and has stayed in touch through the years.
"I have watched her develop into an elite player," Agler said. "The thing I've always admired about her -- and she's a little like Becky Hammon in this way -- is that she stuck with it. She was cut a few times, and she stayed with things. She really developed her pro game in Europe. She's highly coveted by European teams."
Even Quigley's overseas experience has been nomadic; she has played in Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia and Romania.
After seeing Quigley play in Europe, Chatman brought her to Chicago as a free agent.
"When someone gives you a chance and believes in you, you play a little more carefree, and it gives you confidence," Quigley said. "And we play on a team where there are so many threats, and nobody cares if it's someone else's night one night."
In the last two seasons in Chicago, playing frequently in front of family and friends, Quigley has played in all 34 games each season.
But this summer was her breakout. With injuries offering an opportunity for more playing time, Quigley took advantage. She scored in double figures in 21 regular-season games and was named the WNBA's Sixth Player of the Year.
Her teammates appreciate how hard she works, as well.
"When you are bouncing around from team to team, that can mess with your confidence," Sky guard Tamera Young said. "But when you find the right team, under the right coach, you get your time, and she did something with that."
Quigley is sure that all of her experiences in the last seven years are the reason she will be playing for a championship come Sunday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).
"It feels awesome just to know that all these ups and downs over the years and hard work has paid off and just to finally be able to truly feel a part of it," Quigley said. "I've been on teams where I've been the 11th or 12th player and we've had some success, but it's different when you're actually contributing and a part of it."