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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Appel: A reluctant spectator

When Geno Auriemma held his first training camp as the head coach of the U.S. senior women's national team, an injured Jayne Appel could only start on the outskirts of the court and absorb everything she could. Six months later it was like deja vu all over again for the former Stanford star.

Ankle and foot injuries suffered during the national championship game loss to UConn is preventing Appel from taking part in drills this week at the U.S. training camp but once again she made the trip to the East coast to be on hand for the training sessions.

"It is definitely disappointing," Appel said. "I wanted to get on the court but in the long run, hopefully there will be another opportunity to try out. I am keeping that in mind. As much as I want to go."

This has to be a bit of a surreal experience for Appel. Her college career came to an end against UConn as did her junior season yet here she was in the hub of Huskymania surrounded by current and former Huskies Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Swin Cash, being coached by Auriemma with some help from Auriemma's UConn staff and mementos of UConn's incredible run of success everywhere inside of Gampel Pavilion. Taking all of this in less than a week after a bitter loss to UConn has been interesting to say the least for Appel.

"It's a little quick but it is all positive, to be here is an opportunity I would never not want to take advantage of," Appel said. "It is definitely a little strange, it's weird seeing all blue everywhere but it's for the right reasons."

Appel has been hobbled for much of her senior season but fought through the pain and had Stanford on the cusp of a national title. That all changed when she collided with UConn's Tiffany Hayes and crumpled to the floor. Appel displayed tremendous grit in returning to the game but she was not the same player. For the first time in her remarkable career at Stanford, she did not score.

"When I went down, my ankle got really hot and I knew I had redone it," Appel said. "I knew I only had that much time left and I wanted to leave it on the floor literally. That was my emotion of 'hey, how can I get back out there as soon as possible?'

"I knew it wouldn't need surgery, it was just a bad ankle sprain the first time and it wasn't strong enough to hold out through six games, it got me through 5 1/2."

Appel, perhaps because of the injury concerns, slipped to the fifth pick in the WNBA draft but was thrilled to be taken by the San Antonio Silver Stars even if San Antonio was the scene of the worst game of her college career.

"Very excited, the more I thought about it, the more excited I got," Appel said.

Appel believes she is only weeks and not months away from being healthy but is not going to rush back and risk another pain-filled season.

"My goal is to be 100 percent healthy. I don't want to be 90 percent and have it deteroriate over time," Appel said. "I am definitely going to start playing when I am 100 percent healthy, whenever it happens, it happens."

In terms of her USA Basketball future, Appel has at least one valuable person in her corner.

"This is not for everybody," Auriemma said. "You can't be just anybody and say I am involved in USA Basketball. They have to have a tremendous love for the game, love for the program that USA Basketball is and Jayne fits that category. She loves to play, she has had great success with USA Basketball, she's done a lot for us and she knows because of the situation she is in and the position she plays, she has a real chance to be a factor. I think she wants to be ready, when she is ready to play she
wants to be ready instead of jumping in and trying to catch up. Maybe it will be sooner rather than later. I am looking forward to when that it because obviously the stuff that we run, she fits in perfect with that."

The national team will continue training in Connecticut through Sunday. Practices are not open to the public but there is a chance that fans will be able to watch the scrimmage on the final day of the training camp. Details on the camp-ending scrimmage should be coming soon.

Speaking of the training camp, the U.S. coaching staff for the World Championships was completed with the announcement that Marynell Meadors of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream will join Auriemma, DePaul's Doug Bruno and Jen Gillom of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks on the world championship staff.

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