Is Elena Delle Donne doomed to be the next Jacki Gemelos?
Gemelos was once one of the brightest stars in the women’s basketball firmament. She was a brilliant, creative, vastly entertaining 6-0 guard who could shoot threes, score off the dribble and set up teammates – and her career was all but destroyed by a painful series of ACL tears.
Purists believe in the game. They believe in “Hoosiers,” in team ball, in tenacious D, in taking the charge.
Owners believe in the bottom line. They believe in full arenas, high ratings, in jersey sales.
Somewhere in between is the reality of professional sports, the reality of the WNBA. The game of basketball is not only being played to win, it’s a product that’s being sold, and in a perfect world, both goals are equally honored.
A hint on this move. A glimpse on that pass. A flash of the brilliance that made Jacki Gemelos the most prized recruit of the Class of 2006.
Most of the high school Class of 2006 is now the Class of 2010. Most of the basketball-playing Class of 2006 can look back on a career, whether satisfying or unsatisfying. Jayne Appel, who grew up not that far from Gemelos in Northern California, and played with her in the summer and against her in some epic prep matchups, is thinking about a second trip to the Final Four, and whether she'll be the second overall pick in the WNBA draft.
But Jacki Gemelos was better than Appel. There's not a doubt about that, as Gemelos was the 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year, and ticketed for the University of Connecticut until she changed her mind in the summer before her senior year, and seriously ticked off one Geno Auriemma. He was furious that she shifted her allegiance to Mark Trakh and USC, which shows just how good she was. After all, would Geno go public about getting spurned by anything less than the best recruit in all the land?
That was then, however. Thursday, in a mostly empty Haas Pavilion, Gemelos returned to the court for the first time since, well, 2006. It was March 1 of that year when Gemelos tore her ACL in a high school game. Since then, she's had three more ACL tears.