Day 3: Fighting Injury, Gemelos Continues Chasing Dreams
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There were moments when Jacki Gemelos contemplated her basketball future—brief moments in which she wondered why she was tasked with such decisions.
In high school she thrived, averaging 39.2 points and 8.9 assists per game as a senior and compiling 3,162 points in her career. She entered USC as the 2006 National Player of the Year by MaxPreps and Scout.com.
The future was bright. So why was she tasked with such a long road to her dream? Why did five ACL surgeries over the course of six years limit her to 57 games in college?
Gemelos admits she doesn’t know. She’s simply continuing to follow her dream for as long as she can—overcoming as many obstacles as she can along the way. This week, she’s getting her chance at Lynx Training Camp.
“If I ever entertain the thought of not playing before I get my shot here, it kind of really gives me a bad taste in my mouth,” Gemelos said. “I just feel like I have a passion for basketball, and not everyone is fortunate to have a passion. It’s just something I’ve wanted to do since I was 7 years old, so I’m going to keep going until I absolutely have to stop.”
Gemelos’ story is extraordinary. She first tore her right ACL in March 2006 during the final game of her senior year of high school. She rehabbed throughout her first year at USC, then tore the right ACL a second time in September 2007.
The third came in 2008, when she tore her left ACL for the first time. She said she rehabbed for eight months, but realized something wasn’t quite right once she started testing it. Turns out the cadaver ligament she received during that surgery was an allograft—a graft of tissue from someone of a different genotype.
Her body rejected it. She needed another surgery to repair that previous surgery.
“Eight months of rehab was for nothing,” Gemelos said.
Gemelos returned for the full 2010-11 season, playing in every game and receiving All Pac-10 Honorable Mention. She averaged 12.4 points per game in essentially her first full season in four years, stretching a span of four ACL surgeries.
The following here, she played in nine games to start her senior year before the unthinkable happened—a fifth ACL tear against Texas A&M in December. Her college career was over.
Yet somehow she endured. Gemelos waited it out on WNBA Draft night 2012, finally being selected by the Lynx in the third round. Minnesota deferred her on the basis of injury until 2013, and she began her stint in Lynx Training Camp this weekend trying to earn a spot on this roster.
It’s been a long road, one that she endured without fully understanding why she endured such a unique string of injuries.
“I think anybody would have those thoughts, like is this really worth it?” Gemelos said. “I had those days. I’ve had weeks where I’m just like, ‘I can’t do this.’ But then something the next day or the next few days kind of clicks and I can’t see myself walking away, not yet, until I get my chance. I’m getting my chance, and I’m here trying to fulfill my dreams.”
If anything, Gemelos used the past year to her advantage. She got fully healthy, says she feels as good in both knees and now is challenging herself to get acquainted with the pace and speed of the WNBA game. She watched the Lynx whenever she could during the past year, learning some of the nuances of their offense and defense and learning what coach Cheryl Reeve likes to do on the court.
Her hope is she can be a 3-point presence for this team, a person who can stretch the floor and give the Lynx a versatile asset off the bench to add depth at the point guard and shooting guard positions.
She’s seemingly taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. She’s getting an improbable shot at her dream, and that’s an important step in this journey.
From here, who knows?
“I got to play 57 games in college, but you can never get that back,” Gemelos said. “If I’m healthy in 4-5 year and get my momentum going and get a routine going, I can see myself playing at 28-29 [years old] the best basketball of my life.”
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