NEW YORK — It didn’t take long for Jacki Gemelos to get a job after she announced her retirement from playing last month.
Hours after she ended her playing career, Liberty coach Walt Hopkins popped into her social media messages with an offer.
“Coach Walt had DMed me and asked me what I was going to do after, you know, post career,” Gemelos said Wednesday. “I told him, ‘You know I don’t know what’s going on yet, I literally just made the announcement like three hours ago’ and he was like ‘coaching with me question mark.’
“And my heart just dropped and I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh like that would be unreal.’”
Hopkins knew that Gemelos would be a great fit for his young team that went 2-20 last season.
“She personifies everything that we’re about,” the second-year Liberty coach said. “The toughness, the grit and she’s a really unselfish, hardworking person and that’s kind of been the makeup of this organization and the direction we’re headed.”
It’s tough not to root for her after all she went through to even make a WNBA roster after undergoing five ACL injuries through her playing career in college and the pros. She got her first chance to play in the league with Chicago in 2015. After just missing making rosters over the next couple of years, she started last season with Connecticut before finishing it with Washington while the WNBA played its entire season in a bubble in Florida.
Gemelos was known as “The Mayor” of the bubble as she had friends on nearly every team and was one of the most popular players at IMG Academy.
Going to a youthful team like New York made sense for Gemelos, who was a top-rated guard coming out of high school in 2006, but didn’t start playing college basketball until 2010 because of knee injuries.
“That’s what I really bring, especially into a young team,” Gemelos said. “Just the experiences that I can share, and the struggle and the adversity and the things I dealt with in my career, I think, is a really good teaching point for me coming to this side.”
One player she immediately has a bond with is 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu, who only played in three games last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Both are Northern California natives.
“It’s hard to scout a team like New York because the offense they run is so predicated on just reading the defense and relying on your smarts,” Gemelos said. “You bring the addition of Sabrina into that and it’s gonna be really amazing once all the pieces get put together.”
New York’s first game of the season is on May 14 against Indiana.