Appel Focused on Healing Up and Gearing Up for 2011
Jayne Appel looks to play a full, healthy season in 2011
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
Jayne Appel’s WNBA career got off on the wrong foot. Literally. After suffering a stress fracture in her cuboid bone and a third-degree ankle sprain in her right foot during the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Appel’s transition into the league would be slow and steady rather than rushed, for fear that re-aggravating the injury would sideline her for even longer periods of time.
Appel made her debut after missing the first three games of the season on May 28 against the Liberty, tallying just three minutes on the hardwood and registering one assist in a 77-71 loss. It wasn’t until the next game on May 30 against the Storm that Appel cracked the goose egg in a few other stats as well: two points on 1-of-2 shooting and five rebounds over the span of 14 minutes.
“The coaching staff in San Antonio was tremendous,” Appel said in a recent phone interview with WNBA.com. “They allowed me to take my time and allowed me to focus on my body and pay really good attention to it,” she said, adding that the staff’s belief in a slow-and-steady approach allowed her to catch up to the style of play in the league.
Transitioning from college to the pros is often an area of concern for a number of rookies, and that’s even in light of entering the season healthy and ready to play. For Appel, she says it can be just as much a mental adjustment as it is a physical one.
“The hardest adjustment is mentally going from one season straight into the next,” she said. “I know a lot of rookies and we kind of talk and everyone would say something like, ‘OK, we have to keep pushing through this. Keep pushing through this.’”
Appel did just that, injured foot be damned, to end her rookie season with averages of 10.9 minutes, 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. More important than the numbers generated in her rookie campaign, Appel says the knowledge gained is her biggest asset in moving forward.
“For me I look at it as a learning season,” Appel said. “I didn’t play a whole tremendous amount compared to how many minutes I was averaging for my Stanford team, but I tried to kind of take on the role of being a sponge and I think I continued that through USA Basketball. Just try and soak up as much information from all the veterans we had on our team.”
What started as an appearance in USA Basketball camp ended with a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, as Appel impressed head coach Geno Auriemma and cracked the national team’s roster, no easy task even for a player with two healthy feet.
“I really enjoyed playing for Coach Auriemma. I enjoyed kind of seeing the other side of it, knowing what I was playing against for four years,” Appel said with a laugh. “He was, in my head, the perfect person to coach our team because he can relate to so many players.”
After battling through injury at Stanford, slowing her debut to the WNBA and playing in Turkey with USA Basketball, Appel realized the hustle of trying to do much in such a short span of time was starting to get to her, more specifically her nagging injury.
Regardless, Appel did what any other athlete would do in that situation and soldiered on through the pain, joining ranks with Tarsus in the Turkish league this offseason to play alongside fellow WNBA players Dominique Canty, Shanna Crossley and Plenette Pierson.
But sometimes even the will to compete has to take a spot on the backburner.
“It started acting up on me a little bit in Turkey and I just don’t want to play hurt anymore,” Appel admitted, saying it was an example of her body yelling at her for playing through the pain. “So I came home and I’m actually, finally, giving it some rest.”
“Rest” doesn’t exactly mean Appel is kicking back and watching daytime TV, but it does mean she is taking stress away from her injury and conditioning in ways that continue to alleviate pressure on her foot. Since returning home from overseas earlier this month, Appel has been more involved with swimming, yoga, pilates and spin classes to help stay in shape while her body rests up.
“I’ve been very limited in what I’ve been able to do since I’ve been home. I’ve been doing heavy physical therapy and kind of just relaxing and allowing my body to heal and get the time it needs.,” Appel said. “But I’m going to reevaluate in December and then hopefully go play overseas in January. Not sure where yet, but that’s my ultimate goal where I want to be at that time.”
Appel stressed that participating in lower-intensity workouts is difficult. That is to say not in a physical sense, but more on the mental end.
“I don’t want to think of my competition out there working harder than me,” she said. “But at this point in time it’s kind of what I have to stand.”
With enough time to rest up her foot, Appel will be capable of standing a lot more, especially with two healthy feet to stand on.