Gemelos’ journey a test of strength, character

first_imgSometimes, I just watch in amazement.The so-called basketball IQ, the court instincts and awareness — you just can’t teach basketball players that kind of stuff.Combine that with vision, ball-handling ability and a shooting stroke that is textbook perfect, and you have a package that makes the complete basketball player.I’m not talking about Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant or LeBron James.There’s a player sitting in our very own backyard who fits that description perfectly.Her name is Jacki Gemelos.If anybody on the planet was born to play basketball, I’d have to bet my money on Gemelos.She committed to play at the University of Connecticut at the age of 15.But in 2006 of her senior year, she de-committed from UConn and instead settled on USC.By the end of her high school career, she was named a McDonald’s All-American, WBCA All-American and Miss Basketball of California.She was named 2006 National Player of the Year by MaxPreps and Scout.com and runner-up for Player of the Year by Parade and Hoopgurlz.com.Heralded as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, she nearly averaged 40 points her senior year.The only thing between her and WNBA stardom was collegiate basketball.Gemelos was a can’t-miss prospect, a once-in-a-decade talent.She seemed destined for greatness, for Hall-of-Fame status even, but then, arguably the worst injury a basketball player could suffer hit Gemelos.A torn right ACL ended her decorated high-school career.The injury forced Gemelos out of action and subsequently, she missed her 2006-07 freshman season at USC.A long, grueling recovery period, followed by rehab, and then everything would be fine.But then it happened again.Another tear in the same ACL in 2007-08 brought another year of recovery and rehab.Then, it happened yet again in 2008-09 — this time, it was her left ACL.Three injuries in three years before she even stepped on the hardwood at USC.Even then, more bad news.Because a graft had deteriorated in her left knee, a fourth operation was required.By now, most people would have called it quits. You could say it’s bad luck or just not meant to be, but for Gemelos, it was different.“I guess I just think that not everybody gets to feel so passionate about something in life,” Gemelos said. “I’m fortunate for that.”Finally, she is getting her shot.She made her long-awaited USC debut last season, on Feb. 4, 2010.I was there the first time she played competitive basketball three and a half years ago.And Gemelos still had it. The basketball IQ, the vision, the ball handling and the shooting stroke never disappeared.Sure, she might have lost a step or two, but the talent was certainly still there. Eight points, five rebounds and five assists in her first game donning that cardinal and gold jersey.But even if the statistics don’t measure what she’s done, it’s the little plays that make you turn your head and say, “Wow.”It’s those plays that show you why she was the No. 1 player in the nation. But even a greater triumph than what she achieves on the court is how she made it back from off the court.Through hard work, determination and her unfailing love for the game of basketball, Gemelos just wanted to play again.“It’s something I want to pursue as long as it takes, no matter what it takes, because I only get one shot at this and I want to see what I can do,” she said.Now, in her first full season, Gemelos has made her mark on the USC women’s basketball team.She is third on the team in scoring and recorded a career-high 27 points earlier this year against Fresno State.She was recently nominated as an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention and is a finalist for the 11th annual V Foundation Comeback Award by the V Foundation for Cancer Research.The stats in the box score don’t mean much anymore — the mere fact she is healthy and playing speaks louder than words.Despite those dark days and those trying times, Gemelos never quit.She was determined to make it, to prove she still had that talent, to chase that long-awaited dream of playing in the WNBA.Because of that, she epitomizes what it really means to be a Woman of Troy.We don’t have to tell Jacki Gemelos to “Fight on.”She’s a living example.“In the Zone” runs Thursdays. To comment on this article visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Trevor at [email protected]last_img

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