Jacki Gemelos defies the odds with triumphant return to WNBA after major knee issues

Jacki Gemelos made her debut for the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night, returning to the WNBA nearly five years after her last appearance. It was something that many thought she’d never do, but Gemelos never gave up. No one, not even her own body, gets to tell her when her story ends.

Her body has tried, though. Gemelos, 31, has struggled with knee issues for her entire career, dating back to her high school days at St. Mary’s High School in California. Over 15 years she’s endured five ACL tears and eight knee surgeries — not to mention the people who thought she was crazy for continuing to pursue a career in the WNBA.

On Tuesday night, she proved the doubters wrong.

Knee problems began early

Gemelos’ knee issues were present as her career was getting off the ground in high school. In a profile from the New Haven Register, Gemelos was described as a promising player for St. Mary’s who earned national honors, but her 2006 senior season ended with a knee injury. She was welcomed by USC but was redshirted, and then came more knee problems. Via the Register, she tore her ACL nine moths after she was redshirted, and then tore it again a year later, just as she would have been through her recovery.

Each of those tears required surgery, and she needed yet another to further repair her last tear. Her first game for USC came when her fellow St. Mary’s graduates were in their senior years and getting ready to leave college.

Jacki Gemelos had numerous false starts in the WNBA before her debut with the Connecticut Sun. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

A winding road to the WNBA

Another torn ACL ended her college career in 2011, and after being drafted and cut by the Minnesota Lynx, Gemelos decided to try playing overseas. Her goal was the WNBA, and she wouldn’t give it up. She played well enough in Italy and Greece to catch the eye of the Chicago Sky, and she made her long-awaited debut in 2015.

Just 17 games later, her time with the Sky was over. She played in Spain and Italy, and in 2018 was invited to camp by the Las Vegas Aces, but was cut due to more knee problems.

Gemelos continued to rehab her knees and build strength, and finally found her chance in 2020. She was invited to tryout for the Sun, but despite being cut before a single practice, she was invited back after Jonquel Jones opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Gemelos rises with the Sun

Gemelos is in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and she couldn’t be more thrilled to be realizing her dream of returning to the WNBA. Via the Register:

“It is amazing,” Gemelos said. “This is everything I have dreamt of since I was a little girl, was playing in this league, the most elite league in the world. It has always been such a goal of mine and dream of mine to play here and be here. Now that I am actually here, it just feels so amazing and so grateful. I am just soaking up every single experience, every day I am happy no matter what and I think I want to provide that energy and that positive attitude with my teammates because it is not going to be easy here, it is going to be tough with all the back-to-back games we have, but I think somebody like me that is so grateful to be here and so happy to be a part of this league, just super thrilled.”

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