By USA Basketball
April 16, 2010 • Hartford, Conn.
Jayne Appel may be watching the 2010 USA Women’s National Team Spring training camp from the sideline this week in Hartford and Storrs, Conn., but the 6-4 center is speaking volumes about her commitment to USA Basketball. Already a member of three past USA teams, Appel has had to sit out of just as many training camps and competitions due to injury.
This week, it’s a stress fracture that plagued her during the end of her senior year at Stanford University and a sore ankle aggravated in the NCAA Championship game on April 6 that has Appel on the sideline. Last September at the USA Women’s National Team’s fall training camp it was a knee injury. And when she missed out on the 2009 USA World University Games Team this past July, it was due to knee surgery.
“It has been very disappointing to sit out, but especially in the case of the World University Games, I wouldn’t have been able to play that entire beginning of the season if I didn’t have the surgery right then, especially with how long, looking back, it took me to recover from that surgery,” Appel said. “It was definitely disappointing having my two (Stanford) teammates Kayla (Pedersen) and Jeanette (Pohlen) come back and tell me all about it. I wish I could have been there.”
Despite her disappointment in missing out on several USA Basketball opportunities, Appel admits injury has taught her a lot.
“I think being injured has taught me about being mentally tough and also learning what type of injuries you can play through,” she said. “When the right time is to sit and when the right time is to play. Obviously, in the NCAA Tournament I had the same stress fracture, and I wasn’t going to sit at that point in time. I’d invested four years in my teammates, and they had invested in me. That was a time to push through it and play, even though I had a semi-broken bone in my foot. Right now, I know there will be future tryouts, and it’s not absolutely vital that I risk it. I think I can show the same responsibility toward USA Basketball because I still came even though I am not playing.”
Though she is forced to watch from the sideline, Appel said she knew the chance to be with the USA Women’s National Team was one she did not want to pass up.
“I never had a doubt about coming to camp. I absorbed a lot of information last time and learned a lot even though I wasn’t playing then either. And so, to take advantage of another opportunity like that is a no-brainer.”
The committee responsible for selecting the Women’s National Team members certainly have seen Appel prove herself as a winner in her college career, as well as her gold medals with the 2006 USA U18 National Team and 2007 Pan American Games Team. In fact, she donned her first USA jersey as a high school senior in the 2005 USA Women’s Youth Development Festival. With so much history in a USA jersey, you might be surprised that when asked about her favorite USA Basketball memories, she immediately points to 2007.
“The Pan American Games was really fun,” Appel said. “I really enjoyed that team. I got to play with a lot of veterans. Coach (Dawn) Staley was our coach, and we just really enjoyed our trip. Obviously, partly because we won, but it was just a lot of fun, the whole experience. I was the youngest by a long-shot. I think two years. I was playing with players like Tasha Humphrey, Nicky Anosike and Candice Wiggins. I kind of see it as a benefit being able to be the younger one, tagging along and learning from what they have already experienced.”
After wrapping up her impressive collegiate career with a loss to the University of Connecticut in the 2010 NCAA Championship, Appel finds herself now playing for the opposition in Geno Auriemma, head coach at UConn and of the USA Women’s National Team.
“I think at first it was a little weird for me playing for Geno,” Appel admitted. “He was my coach last fall as well, and for me I just had to make that transition mentally and listen to him. He runs a lot of smart stuff on the floor, and it’s also really interesting for me to hear a whole different coaching perspective than what I’ve heard for the last four years.”
Appel compiled a record-setting career at Stanford, setting school records for games played (147), rebounds (1,263) and blocked shots (273) and finishing as the third-leading scorer in school history with 2,125 points, but her future is now about the WNBA San Antonio Silver Stars, as she was the fifth pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft, and her pursuit of her red, white and blue dream
“My motivation for being here is definitely to try and make the National Team,” Appel said. “I think if I were to pass up the opportunity and just go home and take a break instead of giving my time for this week, I think it would set off bells in the heads of the people who pick the team that maybe I’m not committed even though I’m hurt. So, I’m here 100 percent. And I think this will help me prepare for the WNBA. I wish I could be playing. I think it would help more. But I’m definitely still learning and picking up stuff from just watching the post players and their footwork and stuff like that.”
Twice now from the sideline of a USA Women’s National Team training camp Appel has done her best to absorb what she can as she makes the best of her situation.
“It’s about learning a new system,” she said. “In the fall especially, it was new for Tina (Charles), Maya (Moore) and me, seeing how life was different. The professional players would go and do the workouts and go and take care of their body and that was really it. It’s not similar to college in that way at all. Also, on the court, picking up little tricks that the veterans do, has really been helpful.”
And in just a few weeks everyone, including Appel herself, will have a chance to see just how much progress she has made while waiting to heal in advance of her WNBA debut.
“It will probably be a couple more weeks of healing. I’ve had (the stress fracture) for three weeks, and I played on it. The good thing is I didn’t aggravate it more by playing on it, but now it really is just time that it will take to heal.”
Thumbnail photo: Jayne Appel/AP Photo by Paul Sakuma